Mystery backer funds Christian school

28th September 2001 at 01:00
Religious group puts forward plans for a second city academy in Leeds,reports Karen Thornton

CHRISTIAN educationists and businessmen have put forward plans for a second city academy in Leeds, with a mystery backer bankrolling the pound;2 million venture.

The move by Aire Christian Academic Development comes as the Government is under pressure from close allies to scrap plans for more faith schools.

Some ministers fear privately that the creation of Islamic schools could add to problems in Britain's inner cities, already the scene of rioting this summer.

And Lord Alli, the TV mogul who was a member of Labour's general election campaign team, said: "Anything which encourages isolation and segregation in communities through education is a recipe for disaster."

The Leeds-based Christian group is keen to emulate the Christian-based Emmanuel city technology college in Gateshead, whose founder and chairman is Peter Vardy, the millionaire car dealer.

This week a spokesman for Mr Vardy, a committed Christian, said that he had made no commitment to a city academy in Leeds.

However, his educational foundation is backing plans for a second city academy in Middlesbrough.

ACAD, comprising a former headteacher, two serving deputy heads, a university worker and three businessmen, spans the denominational spectrum from Anglican to non-conformists.

It wants to set up a city academy in south Leeds, an area of urban deprivation and low educational achievement, and is considering either starting a new school or upgrading an existing one.

Lawrie Lowton, its spokesman and former head of Garforth community college in Leeds, said: "There is so much of value within the faith we hold that this is something parents need to be offered."

The group was meeting today with Education Leeds, the company running the city council's education services since April following a critical inspection report.

The Anglican diocese in Leeds has already pledged pound;1m towards another city academy, but is still negotiating with a potential donor over matching the amount needed.

* Three Plymouth community colleges - John Kitto, the closure-threatened Southway, and a third which remains anonymous - have approached the Church of England to become voluntary-aided.

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