Government refuses to reveal how much it spent on converting Hewett School into academy

The Hewett Academy in Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley

The Hewett Academy in Norwich. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: Copyright: Archant 2015

The government has refused to say how much it spent on the controversial conversion of the Norwich Hewett School into an academy.

It formally became the Hewett Academy, sponsored by the Inspiration Trust, on September 1, following months of bitter arguments.

The school was put in special measures in November 2014, and ministers said in March they wanted it to become an academy, appointing an interim executive board (IEB) to run the school in the meantime.

We used the Freedom of Information Act to ask the Department for Education how much taxpayers' money it spent on the process. In its response, it said there were 'three broad elements of expenditure': the standard pre-opening grant to the Inspiration Trust, believed to be £150,000, and payments to members of the IEB, and payments to the Government Legal Department to respond to issues raised by the council.

The government refused to reveal how much it paid IEB members because 'release could compromise the department's ability to secure best value for money in the future and would prejudice the commercial interests of the department'.

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It also refused to say much it spent on legal questions, because 'release would potentially prejudice the effective conduct of public affairs'.

The government's stance stands in contrast to Norfolk County Council, which has released the costs of IEBs it has put in place at other schools.

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An Evening News Freedom of Information request showed the IEB the council appointed to replace Sewell Park College's governors in July 2014 cost £50,764 in salaries and clerking.

An earlier Freedom of Information request by campaigners fighting the academisation of Cavell Primary School, also in Norwich, revealed that its IEB cost £18,247.50.

Lynsey White, a leading figure in the campaign against the Hewett's academisation, said: 'By saying 'no' they are making it look suspicious, because I can't understand why, if Norfolk County Council is happy to release that information, what difficulty they could possibly be in us knowing the same information about the Hewett. Why not just answer the question?

'It just follows the pattern they have established, which is that they are not going to tell us anything unless we absolutely rip it from them, and they will hold on as long as they possibly can.'

A spokesman for the Department for Education declined to comment, and the Evening News has appealed against the government's decision.

The Inspiration Trust said it was up to the Department for Education to comment, as the IEB pre-dated its sponsorship of the Hewett.

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