Anger as Government confirms Hewett School will become an Inspiration Trust academy next term
PUBLISHED: 12:00 05 August 2015 | UPDATED: 14:44 05 August 2015
Hewett School students will return to an Inspiration Trust-run academy next month after the Department for Education gave its takeover the green light today.
Education secretary Nicky Morgan confirmed the controversial proposals will become a reality, with the school becoming The Hewett Academy, Norwich, from September.
The announcement has provoked a strong response from campaigners against the proposals - including Norwich South MP Clive Lewis - who said he was “angry and disappointed” that the views of local families had been ignored.
“It’s unfortunate that yet again the community, and most importantly the children of Hewett, have been let down. What was the point of holding a consultation and ignoring the result simply because it wasn’t the answer the Government and the Inspiration Trust wanted?”
But Inspiration Trust chief executive, Rachel de Souza, said she was “thrilled by the opportunity to make the Hewett great again for the people of Norwich”.
Land conditions imposed
One of the more controversial aspects of the academisation of the Hewett School has been the ownership of the land.
Education secretary Nicky Morgan has said she is minded to give the Inspiration Trust the freehold of the land, but the deal will have the following conditions imposed.
Before the freehold will be handed over the Inspiration Trust will be required to agree that: 1. Leases, licences and other agreements or arrangements with existing community users of the land will not be allowed to be terminated or amended without the permission of the education secretary
2. Part of the site will be transferred to the Wherry School Trust
3. The Trust should agrees to future transfers of land for any other educational use determined reasonably by the Secretary of State.
“There is only a short time before the academy opens in September, and we are already busy working with the principal, Tom Leverage, to support his priorities for the Hewett.”
She said in a statement that the Trust had invited Mr Lewis to join the school’s governing body, adding: “We know there is great love for the Hewett locally and some nervousness about its future. With his community role and existing experience as a school governor, I have today written to Norwich South MP Clive Lewis inviting him to join the new governing body.
“We are proud to be stepping up to the challenge of reinvigorating the Hewett, and we hope Mr Lewis will too.”
Mr Lewis said he intended to obtain responses shortly from both the Secretary of State on a number of outstanding issues.
“Clearly there are still serious concerns over the land and I’ll be spending the coming days and weeks speaking to local parents and the community, to get the best outcome for the families and city I represent. This has always been and always will remain their campaign but it is one I and many others in Norwich have been moved by,” he added.
James Joyce, chairman of Children’s Services said Norfolk County Council was considering its response.
“Our priority is to ensure that the children of Norwich receive the very best education and we still believe that a learning village on the Hewett site offers a fantastic opportunity to bring a range of providers together for the benefit of families across South Norwich. We will therefore be reviewing, in particular detail, the conditions in relation to the transfer of the land.”
The Hewett Academy, Norwich’s principal, Tom Leverage, said: “I know some parents have some concerns about the changes, but for me the most important thing is that we now have certainty for our pupils, our staff, and our school.
“I have gotten to know the Inspiration Trust during the consultation period, and I am delighted to take the school forward.”
A Department for Education spokesman said: “Our priority is to make sure every child has the chance to get an excellent education and the best start in life. Ofsted’s recent report on the Hewett School could not be clearer that immediate change is required in order for that to happen.
“As we have seen time and again, becoming an academy with the support of a strong sponsor is the quickest and most effective way to bring about rapid and sustained improvement.
“That is why Hewett School will become an academy under Inspiration Trust, a strong sponsor with a proven track record of delivering rapid improvements in under performing secondary schools. This has been taken with the best interests of children in mind and will help to secure the long term future of the school.”
Opposition to the trust taking over the school has been strong from some parents and campaigners.
Following public demonstrations a consultation was held by the Department for Education which attracted 350 responses.
Mr Leverage wrote to parents in July confirming the uniform will remain unchanged for the start of the new academic year in September.
However, following requests from pupils he has asked the student council to look at whether it could be improved in the future.
The school is currently a foundation school operated by the Central Norwich Foundation Trust. The CNFT decided in 2012 to become an academy, but the proposals did not go ahead.
The Trust said the school’s new name and badge would deepen the connection with Mordecai Hewett.
Mr Hewett’s coat of arms was a chevron separating three owls and the academy’s new badge will feature this an owl and the school’s traditional colours of blue and gold.
The Inspiration Trust now runs ten schools in Norfolk and Suffolk, with new free schools opening in Great Yarmouth and Norwich in September 2016.
•What do you think? You can leave your comments below.