Campaigners' concern at academy bid

Campaigners against a £25m Norfolk academy school expressed concern last night over the "strings" they claim could come with sponsorship from two leading churchmen.

Campaigners against a £25m Norfolk academy school expressed concern last night over the "strings" they claim could come with sponsorship from two leading churchmen.

The academy, which would replace Heartsease High School in Norwich, is the brainchild of the Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, and millionaire Christian businessman Graham Dacre, who would provide £2m in sponsorship.

Those against the plan were responding to a statement yesterday by Mr Dacre that the school would not be a faith school although support from him and Bishop Graham would be "an act of Christian service".

But Colin Collis, county secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers (NASUWT) and a governor at Heartsease High, said the academy would offer nothing the school did not already offer.

Mr Collis said: "I would like to see the support as an act of Christian service without any strings attached. We don't know what those will be until and if the plan comes to fruition but Mr Dacre and the Bishop could well have a majority position on any new governing body."

Fellow campaigner Ian Gibson, MP for Norwich North, added: "Why not just give us the money to build the school in the spirit of the local authority?"

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Mr Dacre's statement was made following the first two meetings which kickstarted the public consultation process, itself part of a feasibility study run by consultants Cambridge Education.

He said: "We regard it as a privilege to invest time and energy, extending the best possible start to each and every young person - of all faiths and none - raised or living in Heartsease."