Inspiration Trust would be opposed to Hewett land sale
- Credit: copyright: Archant 2014
With controversy raging about the future of the Hewett School, education correspondent Martin george reports on its proposed sponsor's first comment on the future of the site.
The academy chain named as the preferred sponsor of a city high school has hit back at claims some of its land could be sold off.
The future of the Hewett School has been at the centre of growing controversy since it was put into special measures last November after Ofsted inspectors rated it 'inadequate'.
Education secretary Nicky Morgan this week signed an academy order for the school, formally signalling its preference for it to become an academy sponsored by the Inspiration Trust. A consultation on the proposals will be held after Easter.
The Hewett School, on Cecil Road, sits on a large site with substantial grounds near Norwich city centre, and the future of this land has been a key issue for anti-academy campaigners.
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The school's land is owned by the Central Norwich Foundation Trust, not Norfolk County Council or the school's governors, although groups represented on the trust include Norfolk County Council and Hewett governors, as well as Norwich City College, Norwich University of the Arts, and Aviva.
Usually, a school's grounds transfer to its new sponsor when it signs a funding agreement with the Department for Education – the moment at which the academy conversion becomes set in stone.
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Campaigners fighting the academy conversion have raised fears some of the Hewett's land could be sold off during or after academisation.
However, in a statement, Dame Rachel de Souza, the chief executive of the Inspiration Trust, said: 'Contrary to baseless allegations, we would be opposed to the sell-off of any land, rather it is a legacy for the Hewett children.'
Stephen Little, a Hewett parent and one of the organisers of the We're Backing Hewett campaign which collected more than 2,000 signatures opposing academisation, said: 'The problem is it's out of our control. They might say that now, but as the school is unaccountable to the community [if it becomes an academy] there is nothing to hold them to that.'
No-one from the Inspiration Trust has given any interviews about the organisation's intentions for the school, or its land, since it was first named as the preferred sponsor earlier this month, although it did issue a statement when its was first named as proposed sponsor, and another when the academy order was signed.
Inspiration currently runs three schools in Norwich: one primary, the Norwich Primary Academy; one high school, the Jane Austen College; and one sixth form, the Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form. It also has other schools in the region.
It has also recently been given the green light for a new primary free school, the Charles Darwin Primary, in Norwich, which does not currently have a site.
It has also not yet said if it supports Norfolk County Council's concept of a 'learning village' at the Hewett.
The council has promoted the idea as an alternative to academy conversion, although the learning village could still go ahead, even if the Hewett converts.
The council said the learning village would include extra post-16 education, enhanced early years activity, a free school for children on the autism spectrum, more adult education, a family and community support centre, and more sports facilities.
• What do you think should happen to the Hewett School? Email reporter Martin George at email@example.com with your views.