A TEACHING union has said it has concerns about plans to turn Peers School in Oxford into a £30m flagship academy.

Earlier this week, the Government gave the go-ahead for the comprehensive school in Sandy Lane, Littlemore, to close and reopen as an independent academy in the project backed by the Oxford Diocese.

Headteacher Lorna Caldicott has described the proposal as "a very exciting opportunity" and Nicola Sheldon, chairman of governors, said it was "a boost" to have the Government's backing.

But a teaching union leader expressed reservations about the plans for a non-selective secondary school for pupils aged 11 to 19.

Chris Blakey, vice president, of the Oxfordshire branch of the National Union of Teachers, said: "No parent, student or teacher would oppose the building of a brand new fully staffed and resourced community school.

"Transforming Peers into an academy would not turn it into an 'effective community school' as claimed by DfES spokesman Daniel Webb-Jones. Indeed, quite the opposite would happen.

"The local community would in fact lose democratic control of the school. Academy sponsors can and always do appoint the majority of the governors.

"Parents, staff and local authority governors in the academy would be in a permanent minority."

Mr Blakey added that the publicly-owned buildings and grounds would be transferred to the Diocese of Oxford and the three other named sponsors of the plan, Oxford Brookes University, Oxford and Cherwell Valley College and BMW.

He added: "For a minimal financial contribution towards the £30m cost of the new school these four unaccountable 'sponsors' would be given control of a modern independent school, and receive the entire school budget directly from the Government.

"One has to ask why, if the Government is prepared to hand out such sums of money, it does not give the money directly to the local authority to build and control a new school."

The academy would specialise in maths, IT and sport and could take in its first pupils in 2008.

The plans could also see new school buildings, costing £22m, opening in September 2010.