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Telford purse overflows

College spreads the millions from sales of its online courses, reports Phillipa White

One of the country's most successful secondaries has made nearly pound;9 million profit from selling its controversial online courses - and given more than a third of the cash away to local schools.

Thomas Telford school in Shropshire has put pound;2m into two academies, given around 70 schools a total of pound;1.25m for specialist status and donated to local primaries and a nearby secondary pound;300,000.

Sir Kevin Satchwell, headteacher, said money given away by the city technology college has helped bring an extra pound;82m of education funding into the region - pound;42m to specialist schools and pound;40m to the academies.

The cash comes from an annual licence fee of up to pound;3,000 which schools pay Telford to run each of its four courses. These include a GNVQ in information and communications technology worth four GCSEs. At present 1,000 licences are held by schools.

Latest accounts show that Thomas Telford School Online Ltd made a profit of pound;8.8m from a turnover of pound;9.6m from January 2000 to August 2003. The profit forecast for this year is pound;2m.

Since trading began in 2000, accounts show the company's four executive directors (who include Sir Kevin) have been paid a total of pound;380,000.

Sir Kevin said all this money has been paid to the school, which employs the directors in other capacities, rather than to the individuals. Just over pound;500,000 has been spent on administrative staff. On average, 13 people have been employed by the company each year. All profits are passed on to two charities set up by the school. "We give money away because it feels right to be reinvesting it in the education system," said Sir Kevin.

"Our mission is to raise educational standards through effective practice and to share it."

His own school has also benefited from sales of the online course with a pound;2.7m swimming pool, theatre extension, and dance studio.

Donations are made by Thomas Telford's governors to schools in the six neighbouring local authorities: Telford and Wrekin, Shropshire, Walsall, Sandwell, Wolverhampton and Dudley.

Primary schools in Telford and Wrekin have received pound;100,000 and pound;300,000 has been given to Madeley Court.

Around 70 schools have shared pound;1.25m for specialist status bids. On average each specialist school receives an extra pound;600,000 from the Government, bringing an extra pound;42 million into the region.

The Walsall academy, which opened in September 2003, received pound;1.25m.

The Sandwell academy, due to open in 2006, will receive pound;750,000.

When completed, the academies will have attracted total government funding of pound;40m.

Bernard Dickenson, head of Shelfield sports and community college, Walsall, was given pound;49,000 to bid for specialist status. He also subscribes to two Thomas Telford online courses. "Everybody wins. Pupils get a great course and a terrific qualification for the 21st century which doesn't cost the school a great deal of money," he said.

The ledger

* Turnover from June 2000 to August 2003 pound;9.6 m

* Profit from June 2000 to August 2003 pound;8.8m

* Forecast profit from August 2003 to August 2004 pound;2m

* Money given to local schools pound;3.7m

* Estimate of extra money brought in to region pound;82m

* Money spent on swimming pool, theatre extension and dance studio at Thomas Telford pound;2.7m

* Money in Thomas Telford charities' reserves pound;2.4m

* Number of licences held by schools 1,000

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