Church at loggerheads with Anglican sponsor

7th October 2005 at 01:00
A row has broken out between the Church of England and an Anglican charity over plans to turn an "improving" school into an academy.

The diocese of Chelmsford lodged an official objection to the new school, which is being sponsored by the United Learning Trust, a charity chaired by Lord Carey, the former Archbishop of Canterbury.

Diocese officials say that McEntee comprehensive, Walthamstow, east London, which will close to make way for the academy, is not failing and does not need ULT's intervention.

The objection was sent to the Office for the Schools Adjudicator, which last week announced that the academy plan could proceed.

Richard Lindley, the adjudicator said: "The excitement and impetus that could accompany a re-establishment of the school as an academy, the opportunity for a new vision and ethos, an expanded curriculum relevant to pupils' needs and greater popularity would be likely to offer a boost to educational standards."

Praise was heaped on McEntee when it was last inspected by Ofsted, in April 2004, and described as "a good school that helps pupils to progress well".

The report said: "Because leadership is very effective overall and the headteacher's work is excellent, provision is improving rapidly."

Canon Peter Hartley, director of education for the diocese, said the "disruption" caused by converting McEntee into an academy would outweigh the benefits.

It is believed to be the first time an Anglican diocese has raised an official objection to an academy sponsored by the ULT, which is sponsoring nine academies, four of which have already opened.

Just one of the schools, Salford academy, which replaced the Canon Williamson C of E high school last month has been opened in partnership with the church. Although the trust says it is an Anglican charity, and its academies have a Christian ethos, they are not church schools. Places are not reserved for children of church-going parents and they do not follow the same, strict guidelines on religious education and collective worship.

Canon Hartley said that he had not been properly consulted by the trust. He said: "I struggled to talk to them at all. They didn't want to address any of my concerns until I formally objected.

"I am the first to have objected in this way but I don't believe I will be the last."

Eleanor Sturdy, the trust's development director, told The TES it was "delighted" at the decision to allow the academy. "We are very keen that everyone should be happy with our plans, including the diocese," she said.

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