Private firm to run first 'academy' for ages 3-18

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A private education firm is to open the first "all-through" state school taking children from three to 18 and beyond.

Bexley Business Academy, designed by architect Sir Norman Foster and operated by 3Es Enterprises, will be taking pupils from nursery to A-level. Following the example of the private education sector, it will run nursery, primary and secondary departments on the same site.

City academies are a new breed of specialist school, run by companies, voluntary organisations or philanthropists, and aimed at reviving inner-city education. The £10m Bexley project is an important step in Tony Blair's attempts to draw private enterprise into the public education system. 3Es already operates three state schools.

Ministers hope for a dozen academies in the next two years, but sponsorship has so far been hard to find.

The bulk of the money for Bexley Business Academy has come from Bexley Council and central government, but David Garrard, founder and chairman of the Minerva property group, has donated £2m.

John Dunford, general secretary of the Secondary Heads Association welcomed the Bexley project. "It offers stability for the pupils and improved facilities," he said.