Christians sponsor a third of academies

17th June 2005 at 01:00
More than a third of the academies the Government has agreed to open so far are being sponsored by Christian groups. Secular organisations this week accused ministers of using the project to open faith-based schools "by the back door".

In all, 21 of the 57 open or planned academies which have an identified sponsor are linked to Christian organisations. Two are sponsored by the Emmanuel Schools Foundation, which has been criticised for teaching creationism alongside evolution theory.

The Government is also in talks with Hindu, Muslim and Sikh organisations to become academy sponsors.

The Church of England is one of the biggest single backers of academies so far, with seven. The Rt Rev Kenneth Stevenson, chair of the Archbishops'

Council's education division, said it was in talks to sponsor 23, many in joint deals with private companies. The Anglican church's involvement follows a report by Lord Dearing four years ago recommending that 100 new C of E secondary schools should be built.

Academies have already attracted criticism because of concern that too much power is given to sponsors. But speaking in the House of Lords, Dr Stevenson said: "I do not believe that to be the case. The commitment of sponsors who support the programme is of direct benefit to the overall educational enterprise." Terry Sanderson, vice-president of the National Secular Society, said: "The Government is so keen to expand its academy programme that it seems willing to accept advances from any faith group, no questions asked."

The Department for Education and Skills denied church groups were being favoured.

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