Ex-chair of governors at Cromer Academy raises concerns about Inspiration Trust in resignation letter

Flashback to 2013: Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, Philip Burton, Cromer

Flashback to 2013: Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, Philip Burton, Cromer Academy governor, Penny Bignell, headteacher, and David Fincham, chairman of the governors. Picture: submitted - Credit: Archant

A chairman of governors who championed Cromer Academy's decision to join a chain of Norfolk academies has resigned, claiming there are 'serious governance shortcomings' within the organisation.

Cromer Academy's board of governors voted in May 2013 to join the Inspiration Trust, saying the relatively small school would benefit from access to new expertise, opportunities, and funding for projects.

However, it has emerged Philip Burton, who was chairman of governors during Cromer Academy's first year with Inspiration, resigned as a governor in September, raising a series of concerns in a letter to Inspiration Trust chief executive Dame Rachel de Souza.

The letter said the 'slow pace of development of the corporate business infrastructure' meant the school had not received the expected financial savings, and claimed there was an 'autocratic style of management and decision-making' within the Inspiration Trust.

The trust said: 'The matters raised in the letter have either been rejected, dealt with or are under review'.

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Mr Burton, a former chief executive of North Norfolk District Council, wrote: 'I believe there are serious governance shortcomings within the trust which are compromising internal challenge and which may expose the organisation to external criticism. I really do not think it is appropriate for the CEO to be chairing LGBs [local governing bodies] which are formal committees of the trust board.

'Part of the role of LGBs is to hold the executive to account insofar as each academy is affected, whether that be in the context of the performance of the principal and senior teaching staff or of the CEO and corporate managers.

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'How can that happen effectively when the CEO is also chairing the LGB as a governor? There is a clear conflict of interest here.'

A spokesman for Inspiration Trust said: 'We were sorry to see Philip Burton resign but do not agree with his characterisation. The Inspiration Trust has high standards of governance and any suggestion its approach is flawed is false and inaccurate.

'Our understanding was this was a private letter which has been leaked or acquired for whatever motive. Cromer Academy, which has already been judged good by Ofsted, is an improving and well-run community school with some first-class senior staff.

'We have every confidence Cromer Academy will play its role in the transformation of education in Norfolk to which the Trust is committed.'

Do you have an education story? Email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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