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City Academies

John Simkin

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Tony Blair wants to create 200 city academies across the country, but has had problems attracting sponsors. In desperation the government has accepted an offer by the Entertainment Software Charity to fund its new academy in Paddington. The companies behind the charity include the American firm Take Two Interactive, the makers of violent video games such as Manhunt which is promoted as a "brutal blood sport". It also produces Grand Theft Auto, described by one lawyer as a "training film for mass murders". As sponsors of city academies are able to dictate key aspects of the curriculum, it has raised concerns that pupils could be cultivated as potential customers of future games.

Take Two Interactive is trying to change its image. In America it faces legal action after two teenagers who killed a man said they were copying the game. Recently Stefan Pakeerah, 14, was murdered by a boy with a claw hammer in Leicester. The boy's parents claim the killer had been influenced by Manhunt.

This really is a bad deal for education. Whereas the sponsor puts in £2m per school, the government has to put in an average £55m over a 10-year period. In return for the £2m the sponsor owns the land, dictates the design of the building and effectively controls the teachers, curriculum and admission policies.

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Guest Andrew Moore

I wish Mr. Blair and Mr. Clarke would realize that there are parts of Britain that don't have cities in which to put city academies. The East Riding has nothing bigger than Goole, Beverley and Bridlington. We have lots of big spaces and horses and pigs and things like that. But, hey, that means we won't get any of these bad institutions being dumped on us...

Mind you, Bridlington was the lucky winner of a private finance initiative from the same people who mend the railways in Britain. It's worth asking people in the relevant schools what they think of that arrangement now.

Edited by Andrew Moore
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