Council tells regional schools commissioner its priorities for future academy conversion discussions

Regional schools commissioner Tim Coulson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY

Regional schools commissioner Tim Coulson. Picture: DENISE BRADLEY - Credit: copyright: Archant 2014

Communities will be at the heart of Norfolk County Council's discussions about future academy conversions, it has told the civil servant who oversees the academies programme in our region.

Michael Rosen, director of children's services at Norfolk County Council.

Michael Rosen, director of children's services at Norfolk County Council. - Credit: Submitted

Tim Coulson, who approves new academies as regional schools commissioner, told councillors about his role at yesterday's Children's Services Committee meeting.

His powers are set to expand when the Education and Adoption Bill becomes law, giving him the role of deciding if non-academies that meet the government's new definition of a 'coasting school' should convert – and who would sponsor them.

His role has already seen him involved in controversial decisions, notably the conversion of the Hewett School into an academy sponsored by the Inspiration Trust, which took over its land.

Michael Rosen, the council's director of children's services, said the council would have two priorities in its discussions with him: checking proposed sponsors of new academies engaged with communities; and having discussions when there was 'a risk to community relationships or community assets', such as land transfers.

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He said: 'We will continue to represent the interests of the community.'

In response, Mr Coulson acknowledged the 'key issues', and said he welcomed the council's commitment to continue to talk through 'tricky issues'.

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Town Close councillor Emma Corlett raised possible conflicts of interests in the regional school commissioner system, including the headteacher board which advises him, and whose members include some heads of academies or academy trusts.

Mr Coulson said if there were the slightest possibility of a conflict, that member would not be present for that item, and would not receive papers about it.

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