A PREMIERSHIP-BOUND football club and two rugby teams are in partnership discussions with schools in Hillingdon as they become academies.
The number of academies in the borough will double before the school year is out, by which time Guru Nanak School, in Hayes, and the Queensmead
Northwood Federation - a co-operation between Queensmead School and Northwood School - aim to have converted, according to Hillingdon Council cabinet member David Simmonds. They will join Harefield Academy and Stockley Academy.
Mr Simmonds, who is responsible for education and children's services, says the local authority must adopt a 'neutral position' with regard to academies.
New legislation approved by the government last year means any school judged to be 'outstanding' or 'good' can become an academy.
"A lot of schools are discussing it at the moment," he said. "Academies give schools greater freedom in the curriculum but they must want the change for positive reasons."
When the Labour government set up the academy programme more than a decade ago, underperforming schools that converted were given a large cash injection, much of which went on shiny new buildings, such as can be seen at both Harefield and Stockley.
This money will not be available to any new schools becoming academies now.
"Harefield has been a success in terms of improvement but Stockley has not achieved that," said Mr Simmonds, who said one of the criticisms levelled at academies is that they will set their own entry criteria, prompting fears that children with special needs would become marginalised.
"There is a danger - we can see this with academies throughout the UK, using freedoms to arrange to alter intake to improve results," he said.
"We have some great special schools in Hillingdon and if they were thinking of joining together and forming an academy, that is something I would support."
And with more schools opting out of local authority control, what of those left behind?
Academies can still buy services from the authority, such as legal support, but Mr Simmonds believes a mass exodus of schools would have serious negative effects on council services.
"If there are 50 or 60 per cent of schools running as academies, it may not be financially sustainable to offer the services we do. This would lead to redundancies, as staff would have to be lost," he said.
So far 10 Hillingdon schools - secondary and primary - have expressed an interest in becoming academies. By June it will be four, but Haydon School in Ruislip is in advanced discussions, and could convert by the start of the new academic year.
Fame and fortune can follow a school's conversion to academy status, especially if it can replicate the model of Harefield Academy's renowned part-nership with Watford Football Club.
Harefield trains Watford's youth prospects, and last year, Harefield student Gavin Massey made his first-team debut for Watford, earning the academy £1,000.
The academy is reported to receive one per cent of any transfer fee earned by Watford for any of its students, and the set up has been put forward as a model to follow by the chairman of the Premier League, Richard Scudamore.
So which clubs are beating a path to the door of schools here?
Mr Simmonds cannot name names. "There are a lot of discussions going on at the moment. One big London club on the verge of being in the