The leader of a Norfolk academy trust praised by government ministers has been tipped as a front runner in the race to become the next head of the school inspectorate Ofsted.

Dame Rachel de Souza, the chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, was among five people singled out by The Times newspaper today as possible successors to Sir Michael Wilshaw, who is due to retire in December.

However, The Times said she 'may be seen as too close to Michael Gove'.

In 2012, former Conservative education secretary told this newspaper: 'If anyone asked me what my ideal education policy would be it would be to clone Rachel 23,000 times.'

Dame Rachel was at the centre of controversy in 2014 over allegations that three schools she was linked to had received tip-offs about the dates of impending Ofsted inspections.

She denied the claims, and an internal Ofsted internal review carried out by senior Ofsted official Sir Robin Bosher found 'no evidence to substantiate the allegations'.

Ofsted then commissioned lawyer Julian Gizzi to carry out an independent investigation after emails leaked to the Observer newspaper raised fresh concerns.

His report found that 'on the balance of probabilities' no-one at the schools was unfairly tipped off.

This is not the first time a senior Inspiration Trust figure has been linked to a top job at Ofsted.

In 2014, there was speculation in the national press that the trust's sponsor, Sir Theodore Agnew, would become chairman of Ofsted, after Mr Gove decided not to renew the contract of Labour peer Sally Morgan.

However, Sir Theodore told the EDP that, following a political row, he decided not to apply for the position.

Dame Rachel and the Inspiration Trust declined to comment.