Pioneer C of E academy delays opening

15th June 2001 at 01:00
One of the first city academies has had to put back its opening date because of problems in getting sponsors to help finance the new Church of England institution, writes Karen Thornton.

The news came as Lord Dearing's final report on establishing 100 more Anglican secondary schools recommended the Church set up a pound;25million national fundraising campaign to support its education expansion plans - including new academies.

Ian Mackenzie, director of education for Ripon and Leeds diocese, said the planned September 2003 opening for a new academy to replace the inner-city Agnes Stewart school in Leeds had been put back, probably to 2004.

The Church is contributing pound;1m, mainly from the sale of the site and other resources, but needs to raise a similar amount. Mr Mackenzie said:

"Attracting commercial sponsors is proving to be difficult." However, First City Academy in Haringey, north London, is hoping to have more money than previously expected to spend on refurbishing and rebuilding work at the Schoo of St David and St Katherine, which is co-sponsored by the Church and the local Greig charitable trust.

The final Dearing report urges the Church to exploit the political climate in favour of faith-run schools to further its plans for increasing the number of its secondaries. But in recognition of financial and practical restraints - three-quarters of the Church's dioceses are in the red - recommends national fundraising and a longer development period.

However, secular groups remain opposed to the expansion of the Church sector, saying faith schools are divisive and that parents simply want good schools.

Lord Dearing claims parental demand for Church secondary school places is growing. He said: "We have a very supportive immediate political environment. Everybody else is willing. It's a God-given opportunity."

He said the Church of England should be interested in taking on successful as well as failing schools, under the Government's Green Paper proposals for "contract" schools.

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