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800 students will march into Westminster's £24m Ark academy

PUBLISHED: 14:33 17 May 2007 | UPDATED: 14:32 07 September 2010

By Susanna Wilkey A new £24million academy catering for more than 800 students is to be built in Westminster. A funding deal has been struck between the government and sponsors Ark Schools - an educational charity. Work on the state-of-the-art King Solomo

By Susanna Wilkey

A new £24million academy catering for more than 800 students is to be built in Westminster.

A funding deal has been struck between the government and sponsors Ark Schools - an educational charity.

Work on the state-of-the-art King Solomon Academy will start in 2008.

The aim is to eventually offer places to 840 pupils, aged four to 18, and part-time nursery education to 60 three-year-olds.

It will be based on Penfold Street, Lisson Grove - an area of the city where the number of primary age children is predicted to continue rising.

Councillor Sarah Richardson, Westminster's boss for children's services, said: "It is extremely good news that a deal has been reached so this new academy can go ahead as planned.

"It will offer families in the north of Westminster greater choice for their children and will help address the increasing need for school places in the city."

Prior to the building work, the academy will open its doors this September to 60 four-year-olds, who will be taught in temporary classrooms on the site.

Secondary and nursery age places will be on offer from 2009.

It will be the first school in the borough to offer both primary and secondary education.

Cllr Richardson added: "Our priority is to ensure all children in Westminster get the best possible education available to them.

"ARK shares this vision and we look forward to working with them to continue improving education in the city."

The majority of the funding will come from the department for education and skills.

Westminster Council and ARK will each add about £1.5million towards the building and its future running costs.

It will be the third academy to be opened by the council. Westminster and Paddington academies opened in September 2006.

The academies complement the council's building schools for the future programme, which gets £150million from the government.

The idea is to give more choice to parents and deliver the council's aim of raising achievements in all the borough's secondary schools.

The new academy is expected to be completed by 2010.

An academy is an independently governed but state-funded school, providing free education to pupils of all abilities.

King Solomon will be governed by ARK which will set up a governing body and appoint some of the governors. Westminster Council, school staff and parents will also be represented.

But not everyone welcomes the move. Padraic Finn, secretary of Westminster NUT, said: "We are opposed to academies because it is essentially privatisation. ARK is a charitable offshoot of a hedge fund - so what do they know about running a school and what value are they going to bring?

"They will have control over the curriculum, admissions and the governing body. We do not think they are a desirable organisation to run schools. They do not seem to have consulted local schools about the effect the academy admissions will have on them. They did no consultation with the parents in the area either - and that is typical of Westminster Council."

susanna.wilkey@hamhigh.co.uk

ARK stands for Absolute Return for Kids. Its overall mission is to transform the lives of children who are victims of abuse, disability, illness and poverty.

As part of the academies programme, ARK Schools

is working with the department for education and skills and local authorities to set up new schools and replace existing schools.

The first ARK academy opened in September 2006. o The trust aims to have more than 4,500 young people enrolled in seven academies all over London by the end of 2008.

Once the school is open, the DfES provides continuing funding on a comparable basis to other state schools in the area.

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