Politics put before children – Sir Peter

A MILLIONAIRE motor magnate has accused education bosses of putting “politics before children” after rejecting his offer to sponsor a £2m academy.

A MILLIONAIRE motor magnate has accused education bosses of putting “politics before children” after rejecting his offer to sponsor a £2m academy.

Sir Peter Vardy’s Emmanuel Schools Foundation (ESF) and former Sunderland Football Club chairman Bob Murray offered to build a city academy in Consett, County Durham.

But Durham County Council’s ruling cabinet overwhelmingly rejected the bid.

Last night Sir Peter said he was “disappointed but not particularly surprised that the councillors had put politics before children”.

He added that he was “saddened by personal criticism towards Bob Murray, who simply wanted to put something back into the town where he was brought up”.

At the meeting Clive Robson, deputy leader of the county council, said: “We don’t want Emmanuel. Faith alone does not make children any better. And what is Bob Murray going to bring to our children’s education? He didn’t do a lot for Sunderland Football Club.”

Sir Peter said: “I thought the criticism of Bob Murray was unfair. He was behind the Stadium of Light, which is a fantastic football stadium.

“And I am sick and tired of people referring to our academies as faith schools. Roman Catholic schools are faith schools, Church of England schools are, so are Jewish schools, but ours are not. I wish the councillors had bothered to come and have a look at our academies before making these judgments. All ESF wants is the best for children. We must be doing something right because parents are queuing up to get their children into our schools. House prices in the area go up when we start an academy because people want to live nearby so their children can attend.”

A report for the county council compiled by Maurice Smith, a former chief inspector of schools, recommended accepting the Emmanuel bid, citing its previous track record in education.

And Hilary Armstrong, MP for North West Durham, warned cabinet members against allowing “prejudices” to prevent them from offering the children of Consett a “marvellous opportunity”.

She said: “The Emmanuel Schools Foundation has a proven track record of running excellent schools. Children in my constituency attend the one at Lobley Hill in Gateshead.”

The Emmanuel Schools Foundation (ESF) also runs the King’s Academy in Middlesbrough and Trinity Academy near Doncaster, and has received planning permission for Bede Academy at Blyth.

The council instead voted as potential sponsor a consortium called Durham Excellence in Education Partnership (Deep) involving Durham University, local secondary schools, the North East Chamber of Commerce and the county council itself, despite Mr Smith saying the bid had “a number of serious flaws which were unresolved”.

To see how The Journal has followed the academies debate, click the links below

Pair's academy pitch

Academies set for the thumbs down

County rejects faith academy at Consett

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