Concerns raised about the independence of board appointed by Norfolk County Council to decide whether Cavell Primary School, Norwich, should become an academy

Simon Wright MP, chats with one of the campaign organisers, Tina Boulter, front, as concerned parent

Simon Wright MP, chats with one of the campaign organisers, Tina Boulter, front, as concerned parents campaign to stop Cavell Primary school becoming an academy. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

Parents fighting the possible academisation of a primary school have raised concerns about the independence of the new interim executive board appointed by Norfolk County Council to decide the school's future.

The council last month removed the governors of Cavell Primary in Norwich, which was put in special measures in May. The governors had opposed the council's preference for it to become an academy, preferring instead to form a cooperative trust with nearby schools.

Now it has emerged the three members of the school's new interim executive board (IEB) are being paid, unlike normal governors.

Chairman David Lennard Jones is a former council officer, while another member, Bev Hall, works for the council as an adviser. The third member, Paul Macardle, has not worked for the council.

The council said the government had decided the appointments were suitable and had sufficient distance from the local authority and school.

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Rachel Ward, a member of the Save Cavell campaign group, said: 'It's certainly concerning. I honestly don't know how impartial they are.

'It can certainly feel like they have been brought in to do the council's bidding, although from the meetings we have had with [Mr Lennard Jones] he seemed to be asking questions of the council about the way things are being run as well as asking questions of the school, so he did seem to have some degree of independence.'

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The council said the board members are carrying out the role as part of their day job, or are paid 'a daily rate commensurate with that of a school improvement advisor'.

Mr Lennard Jones said: 'Members of the Interim Executive Board were approached to take on an independent role on the basis of their professional experience and expertise. The fact that they are being paid to take on this challenging role has no bearing on their independence of thought and action.

'The IEB is taking a fresh look at all the issues and wants to hear the range of views about them. At this stage it has not formed a view on any of the proposals for structural change.'

He said the IEB will meet with proposers of both the trust and academy proposals, share its findings with parents and staff, and ask for views, and only then discuss 'how best to ensure the long term prosperity of the school'.

Gordon Boyd, assistant director of children's services, said: 'Our priority is always to ensure the best for Norfolk's children and if we do not believe a school has the capacity to make the necessary improvements we can apply to replace the governors with an IEB.

'When doing so we closely follow guidance from the Department for Education, which includes providing evidence that the proposed members of the board have the expertise and skill necessary to secure improvements at the school.

'Sometimes we will propose former employees as board members if we feel that they are the best possible candidate for a given school and have the knowledge and experience to ensure that the school can make the progress needed. However, it remains the Secretary of State's decision about whether these candidates are suitable.'

Two of the four members of Stalham Junior School's IEB are current or former council staff members, and two of the three members of the former IEB at Moorlands School in Great Yarmouth, before it became an academy, were current or former council staff.

What do you think about the future of Cavell Primary School? Write to Letters Editor, Prospect House, Rouen Road, Norwich, NR1 1RE.

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