Midlands councils have vowed to press ahead with plans for controversial secondary schools sponsored by banks and an evangelical businessman, despite demands from MPs for the scheme to be scrapped.
Ministers have been urged to shelve plans for privately-sponsored city academies costing the taxpayer £5 billion, until they can prove the schools offer value for money. In a highly-critical report on the Government's five-year education plan, the Commons' education selectcommittee said Ministers appeared to lack "a coherent overarching strategy".
But Sandwell and Solihull councils last night vowed to press ahead with the new schools.
Sandwell is to open a city academy in West Bromwich, sponsored by the Mercers' Company, Thomas Telford Online, HSBC, Tarmac Group Ltd and West Bromwich Albion Football Club.
The academy will cater for 1,200 pupils, aged 11 to 18, and will be managed by the team behind Thomas Telford School in Shropshire.
Solihull is to open the Grace Academy in North Solihull, sponsored by Bob Edmiston, chairman and chief executive of IM Group Limited, and serving pupils, aged 11 to 18.
Mr Edmiston, a Pentecostal Christian, runs a major charity called Christian Vision, based in West Bromwich.
His involvement in state-run schools has been controversial because he does not believe in evolution.
There is one city academy already up and running in Walsall, called Walsall Academy and sponsored by the Mercers' Company and Thomas Telford Online.
But in a scathing report, the MPs said the projected £5 billion Ministers were putting into creating 200 city academies by 2010 was too much to spend without evidence the schools actually raised standards.
The MPs said: "We fail to understand why the Department for Education and Skills is putting such substantial resources into academies when it has not produced the evidence on which to base the expansion of this programme."
Steve Sinnott, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, backed the committee's findings.