Education chiefs in Birmingham have been accused of pushing through plans to create seven city academies without proper consultation.

The Birmingham Post revealed before Christmas the city is in talks with the Government to launch the single biggest academy drive of any authority in the country.

The controversial move will see the seven schools close and reopen as privately-sponsored institutions.

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The National Union of Teachers claims the authority has failed to put the matter before "the people of Birmingham" and said the proposals were shrouded by "secrecy".

Bill Anderson, deputy general secretary of the Birmingham branch of the National Union of Teachers, said: "This is a question of turning the whole of the education system in Birmingham upside down and doing it behind closed doors without any consultation."

He added: "When will these proposals be put before the people of Birmingham and their elected representatives?

"This should not be a deal done behind closed doors. It should be one of the central issues of the forthcoming local elections."

Under the city academy model, failing schools are knocked down and replaced by a new £25 million centre with £2 million sponsorship from a private company, individual or charitable trust.

In return, they gain significant representation on the governing body and influence over the school curriculum.

The Government believes where consistent failure has marred a school, schools should be freed from local authority control and injected with a dose of the private sector.

Critics, however, claim academies give organisations that have nothing to do with education influence over children.

There has been particular concern at the dominance of evangelical Christian organisations in the programme.

Concern has also been expressed that independentlyrun academies will be in direct competition with other schools in an area.

Birmingham insists its proposals are an adapted version of the drive that eliminates some of its more controversial aspects.

Crucially, Birmingham's academies would have more than one sponsor, preventing any one organisation gaining too much dominance.

The council says they will also be part of the authority's "family" of schools and would not have control of admissions and teachers' pay and conditions, unlike in the Government model.

The Government is set to make a final decision on Birmingham's proposals next month.

Two meetings were held last week at the Council House to discuss the plans and the Government's vision for creating trust schools. One was organised by the Chamber of Commerce to explain the idea to the business community.

The other, by a Labour thinktank called Compass, was attended by about 60 people including Melissa Benn, daughter of veteran politician Tony Benn, and Fiona Miller, partner of former Labour spin-doctor Alastair Campbell.

A number of head teachers and governors have also been consulted. But as yet the city council has not held public meeting to discuss the plans.

The Government is due to publish its Education Bill this week.

The trust schools operate in a similar way to academies but do not involve rebuilding a school or sponsors having to fork out £2 million in start-up costs. The proposals, however, face a backbench revolt by more than 100 Labour MPs, including former Secretary of State for Education and ex-Birmingham MP Estelle Morris. ..SUPL: