Council denies letter to Gove was last-minute u-turn to stop Cavell Primary academy conversion

Parents Mark Sayer, and Rachel Ward, with the petition parents have signed against the plans to turn

Parents Mark Sayer, and Rachel Ward, with the petition parents have signed against the plans to turn Cavell Primary School into an academy. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

A senior councillor has denied that a letter to the government highlighting local opposition to a primary school becoming an academy was a last-minute attempt to stop its conversion.

Norfolk County Council has consistently said Cavell Primary in Norwich should become an academy since it was put in special measures following an inspection in March 2013.

Last year the council replaced governors who instead wanted it to join a co-operative trust with an interim executive board (IEB) which recommended conversion earlier this year, despite vocal opposition from local campaigners.

The 15-month controversy about the school's future officially came to an end at midnight, when it officially become the Edith Cavell Academy, sponsored by the Right for Success Trust.

However, it has emerged that George Nobbs, the leader of the council, and James Joyce, the lead member for children's services, wrote to education secretary Michael Gove just 10 days earlier, highlighting a string of arguments used by the Save Cavell Campaign.

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They said Cavell had come out of special measures before the application to become an academy was made, and the consultation 'did not find a single parent who supported the school becoming an academy'.

The councillors wrote: 'We wanted to ensure that you are aware of the strength of feeling about this issue and to give you the opportunity to consider [parents'] views before reaching a final decision.'

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In a response dated yesterday, education minister Lord Nash said he was confident that becoming an academy with a strong sponsor will 'accelerate and sustain the improvements already made'.

Mr Joyce said his letter did not represent a u-turn on the school's future, and said: 'I totally support our officers in the way this has gone forward. Academies are not always the best solution but I think in this case it was the best approach.'

David Ward, a leading member of the Save Cavell campaign, said: 'I think this is their approach to show they are trying to do the right thing, but it's too little, too late. If they wanted to make a difference and cared about what was happening, they really ought to have told the IEB to have a proper consultation. There are lots of things they could have done, but they did not.'

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