A CITY academy planned for one of the most deprived parts of Liverpool could be the first in a string of new schools sponsored by the Church of England.
The Church will be the lead sponsor of the Liverpool Academy in Kensington, one of the first of three schools created in the Government's latest initiative to raise inner-city standards.
Its board of education is already involved in discussions about further academies. At least one could be among the next three due to be announced before Christmas.
Education Secretary David Blunkett, announced the first three academies at a local government conference on regeneration last Friday.
Alongside Liverpool, a sports adademy will replace Willesden high school in Brent, north London (see left). A technology academy, sponsored by CfBT Education Services, is planned in Lambeth, south London, where a site will be found as part of a major reorganisation of secondaries.
Potential sponsors for further schools include the Corporation of London, which is in talks in Hackney, and Reg Vardy Cars in the North-east.
The first schools will open next September. Like city technology colleges, on which they are modelled, they will be state-maintained but independent, and otside council control - although the relevant local education authorities played a part in all three of the new academies.
The driving force behind the Church's sponsorship in Liverpool was its Bishop, the Right Reverend James Jones. A site is being sought for the technology academy in Kensington, which is already designated a New Deal area because of high unemployment and low skills among residents.
Canon John Hall, general secretary of the Church's board of education, said:
"This sponsorship is a very significant step for the Church to take. It is a sign that the Government sees the Church of England as an effective partner."
Mr Blunkett told the Core Cities conference that academies would "transform the life chances of people in their neighbourhood".
But in an apparent downplaying of the initiative when it was first announced, he said that academies would only make a "small contribution" to raising inner-city standards.
The announcement saw a further fudge of the amount sponsors must contribute. Briefing notes for Mr Blunkett's speech suggested at least pound;1m for each pound;10m school - half the 20 per cent originally proposed. But Mr Blunkett repeated the 20 per cent figure to journalists.