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Huge blow for architecture academy as funding is pulled

The future of the UK's first and only city academy to specialise in the built environment and architecture has been cast into doubt after its main sponsor withdrew its funding.

The David Young Community Academy in Leeds, designed by Bond Bryan Architects, is set to open next week, but it has been rocked by the loss of £1 million in sponsorship money that was promised by the construction firm Intercity.

Why the firm has pulled out at this stage is unclear, and furthermore the company has mysteriously relocated to an unknown European country.

Intercity announced it would be backing the school - which is the only academy in the country to focus on 'built environment skills' - back in 2003.

This development will prove a serious embarrassment to the government, which was left reeling recently after the high-profile city academies programme was questioned by architects, teachers and educationalists.

Intercity refused to comment on the withdrawal of sponsorship. However, a source close to the company

did confirm that it was still involved in the extension of a cancer unit at Leeds' St James's Hospital.

The school is the first academy in the country to offer specialist training in design and the built environment, and plans to work closely with the Leeds College of Building and other schools for over-16-year-olds.

In addition to teaching regular subjects, the school plans to offer students courses in computer-aided design, interior decorating, surveying and architecture.

The academy is part of the government's programme to build hundreds of specialist 'super-schools' across the UK.

Funding for the academies is met mainly through sponsors and by the Department for Education and Skills (DfES), which makes the £1 million loss to the David Young Academy a significant blow.

Following Intercity's departure, the DfES has stated that it is now up to the school's other sponsor, the Church of England Diocese of Ripon and Leeds, to decide if it wants to become the sole backer.

However, the academy's principal Ros McMuleen has insisted that the withdrawal is unlikely to have any impact on the school's backing, or its performance.

by Richard Vaughan

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