A LEADING councillor has expressed concerns over proposals for a city academy in east Cleveland.

Councillor Ian Jeffrey, Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council's lead member for education, reacted to the authority's decision to press ahead with consultation on the scheme.

The academy was suggested as a means of addressing falling numbers at Warsett School, in Brotton, De Brus School, in Skelton, and Rosecroft School, in Loftus.

It has been decided to amalgamate the sites from September. Now, consultation with parents, teachers, governors, councillors and the communities will begin.

The multi-million pound academy could open in September, 2003.

But Coun Jeffrey expressed doubts about the development, which is backed by the Government and may be sponsored by the Church of England.

He said: "I believe there are serious concerns about the basis on which city academies operate - not least the lack of local accountability, the element of selection, and the ability of those running them to determine different terms and conditions for staff.

"I recognise that there is the potential for gaining a significant amount of investment, although I do wonder why the millions of pounds made available through the city academy route cannot be provided via the local education authority.

"A city academy would mean secondary education in a large part of our borough would be out of the local authority's hands."

He said the option of the education authority acting as a sponsor, alone or in partnership, was being looked at.

Council leader Dave Walsh was more positive about the idea of a city academy.

He said: "We think it is right to progress the consultation over a city academy as one of the options for the future of secondary education in east Cleveland.

"The key questions we have to face up to include whether we can rely on older buildings on three different sites to provide a long-term solution to tackling the issues of educational, economic and social deprivation which affect east Cleveland."

The academy could be a single site, a hub and satellite, or three sites.