Norfolk MP demands academy answers

STEVE DOWNES Controversial plans for an academy with a Christian ethos in Norwich have been raised in parliament.Norwich North MP Dr Ian Gibson has asked education secretary Alan Johnson to release key papers relating to the plan, which is currently in the middle of a public consultation and feasibility study period.

STEVE DOWNES

Controversial plans for an academy with a Christian ethos in Norwich have been raised in parliament.

Norwich North MP Dr Ian Gibson has asked education secretary Alan Johnson to release key papers relating to the plan, which is currently in the middle of a public consultation and feasibility study period.

Christian businessman Graham Dacre and the Bishop of Norwich are sponsoring the £25m plan for the academy to replace the existing Heartsease High School.

Dr Gibson, one of the leading campaigners against the scheme, has demanded that the articles and memorandum of association be made available to the public.

He has also asked which company has the contract to “develop the programme for the feasibility study” and how much has been set aside by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES) to pay for the study.

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The articles and memorandum of association are the rules and regulations set down by a school or company, which state how it will be organised and governed.

Dr Gibson, who - despite repeated denials by the sponsors - is suspicious that the academy will be a “faith school”, said there had been an ongoing battle by campaigners to get similar information in connection with an academy being built in Leicester.

He said that when the documents were eventually released, they showed that out of the 16 governors, the bishop and co-sponsor appointed five governors each and the headteacher, who was required to be a Christian, was also a governor.

Dr Gibson said: “This process must be fair and transparent throughout. We do not have a fancy PR company and money to distribute tens of thousands of leaflets and brochures like the academy team does, but we will keep on fighting because it is what the community wants.

“The parents who have come to me do not want religion to be a central part of their child's education. I am concerned that what we will end up with is a school which selects pupils according to religion.”

Last week the Bishop, the Rt Rev Graham James, said: “Some people continue to claim the potential academy at Heartsease would be a faith academy. This is not the case.

“Graham Dacre and I are very clear on this issue. We have said that it will have a Christian ethos. That is what inspires its values.

“The Norfolk agreed syllabus for religious education, which was adopted for use in Norfolk schools (including all Church of England schools) in September 2005, would be used. It's an admirable syllabus and we would have no desire to change it.”

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