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Norwich academy open to all faiths

GrahamDacreChristian sponsors of a planned academy school for Heartsease in Norwich say it would be open to pupils of all faiths and abilities.

The Bishop of Norwich, the Rt Rev Graham James, and businessman Graham Dacre have insisted that the academy would not be a faith school and its religious education teaching would be based on the Norfolk standard.

The plans would see up to £20m spent on transforming Heartsease High School into one of the academies that prime minister Tony Blair believes will revitalise education in deprived communities.

The first consultation meetings on the Heartsease project have been held and questionnaires are due to be sent out to the public after Easter.

Meanwhile, a public meeting to discuss the pros and cons of an academy, organised by critics of the plan, will take place on May 4.

GrahamJamesMr Dacre, co-sponsor of the potential academy, said that it was important for the views of the local community to be considered in the feasibility stage.

He said: "We consider the opportunity to support an academy in Heartsease as an act of Christian service.

"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.

“The potential academy will not be a faith school. Religious education would be taught from the Norfolk Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education, which was adopted for use in all Norfolk schools in September 2005.

"Our goal is to provide a wide learning platform on which young people are able to make choices.

"My experience is that, provided with facts, young people are not hesitant in making up their own minds and that includes decisions in respect of religion and faith.

"Bishop Graham and I agree the admissions criteria will be the same as used at present. We would ensure that the academy would be supportive of Norfolk County Council's Strategy for Special Educational Needs provision and we are currently being advised and guided by the local authority."

However, some still fear the academy would harm neighbouring high schools. Norwich North MP Ian Gibson has been voicing his concerns over the plan since it was first announced.

He said: "Why does it need to become an academy? They are dodging the other questions about what having an academy means.

"I don't think the problem is met by having an academy. The problem is met by the schools in that area working together."

Cambridge Education was appointed in January 2007 to manage a nine-month feasibility study into opening an academy.

The first consultation meetings have involved the sponsors, pupils of Heartsease High and its partner middle schools, parents, governors, headteachers of all partner schools, teachers and support staff, representatives from feeder middle schools, special schools, the city and county councils, City College Norwich, the UEA, the Learning and Skills Council and the Department for Education and Skills.

The academy project website is at


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Pictured above are academy sponsors Grahma Dacre (top), and Rt Rev Graham James Bishop of Norwich.

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