Lordly plans for new academy

22nd September 2000 at 01:00
Frank Lowe, millionaire advertising guru, reveals his ambitions for a failing London comprehensive. Mark Oliver reports.

LORD Foster, one of the world's foremost architects, and creator of London's infamous wobbly Millennium Bridge, is to help transform failing Willesden high school into a sports academy.

The lead sponsor of Brent Academy, Frank Lowe, is the millionaire chairman of the Lowe Group advertising agency and head of the marketing firm that represents Russian tennis star Anna Kournikova. He will pour at least pound;1.5 million into the new city academy, it emerged last week.

"I've been to the school and it's a nice old building but the new blocks are frankly terrible," he said. "There will have to be some major work done.

"I've asked my friend Norman Foster to have a look at it and he's agreed to be involved."

Lord Foster of Thames Bank, whose acclaimed buildings dot the globe, will join Mr Lowe at a meeting at the school next month to get his first glimpse of the task before him.

His office said it was too early to comment but Lord Foster has been involved in education projects since the 1970s when his company worked on the design of Palmerston special shool in Liverpool.

Recent high-profile projects, apart from the bridge which remains closed for structural improvements, include the new Greater London Assembly building in south London.

Mr Lowe became involved in the Willesden scheme after an approach from Andrew Adonis, one of the Prime Minister's education advisers.

He has three children, aged six to 22, and has been impressed by the positive force of sport in their lives.

His vision now is to transform the high school into a place where disadvantaged children can be helped in a similar way.

"I am petrified of what drink and drugs can do to young people," he said. "It seems that if they get into sport it gives them a huge interest. It teaches you not to behave badly."

Around 10 per cent of pupils at the new Brent Academy will be selected for their sports prowess.

Mr Lowe, whose mother lives in Brent, said Ms Kournikova may make a special visit to school.

But he insisted his was a sideline role and was surprised by media interest in him.

"You have probably never heard of me before today. And you won't hear much about me in the future when we are quietly working away at the school."

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