TWO new city academies were announced this week by the Government as part of its drive to transform inner-city schooling.
The Church of England will sponsor an academy in Haringey, north London, while a construction and management company will help establish a new school in Middlesbrough.
Both schools will specialise in technology and be provided with the latest computer equipment by their sponsors.
The city academies initiative aims to bring in private funding to improve inner-city schools. But the Department for Education and Employment has backtracked on the amount of private funding needed. It now says a sponsor must contribute a minimum of just 10 per cent of the set-up costs, typically pound;1 million. When the scheme was announced in March David Blunkett had said sponsorship would account for 20 per cent of set-up costs.
The Haringey scheme will receive pound;600,000 from the Church of England and the Greig charitable trust as part of a pound;3 million refurbishment of an existing church school, St David and St Katharine high.
Although the school's GCSE results are relatively poor, it was judged satisfactory when last inspected in 1998 and was praised for significant improvements. Buildings and resources were described as good and its funding per pupil is well above average.
A DFEE spokeswoman explained that the scheme was not just for failing schools but also for improving inner-cit schools that needed "an extra boost".
The Middlesbrough academy benefits from a relaxation of the rules of the original scheme: sponsors can now contribute in kind as well as with cash.
Construction and management firm Amey will contribute more than pound;2 million in cash, computer equipment and management expertise, as part of a pound;10m scheme to replace two existing schools, Keldholme and Langbaurgh. Middlesbrough Council is providing the site.
The new school will be called East Middlesbrough City Academy. It will give every child access to their own computer and offer a work-related curriculum with links to local businesses.
The company is already involved in a pound;1.2 billion programme to modernise secondaries in Glasgow and plans to build on this work at the city academy.
A spokeswoman for Amey said: "We want to give these children access to all the facilities of the modern workplace. We are looking at introducing virtual classrooms, on-line tutors and video conferencing." The two new academies follow those already announced in Brent, Liverpool and Lambeth.
The academies will be publicly funded but independent. They will have greater freedom over their staffing and curriculum and will be built and managed by partnerships involving Government, business and private-sector groups.
The first academies open in September 2001, with most opening in autumn 2002 and 2003.