Meeting held in secret set to decide whether council challenges Hewett academy conversion

Hundreds of people marched on Saturday against plans for the Hewett to become an academy. Picture: A

Hundreds of people marched on Saturday against plans for the Hewett to become an academy. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

A decision whether to launch a legal challenge to government plans to turn the Hewett School into an academy could be taken in secret, it has emerged.

The government wants the Hewett School, which was put in special measures in November, to be taken over by the Inspiration Trust.

Norfolk County Council leaders instead want it to form part of a 'learning village'.

A Department for Education consultation with the Central Norwich Foundation Trust, which owns the Hewett's land, is due to end at 5pm this afternoon.

That would clear the way for education secretary Nicky Morgan to issue a formal academy order for the Hewett to become an Inspiration Trust academy, but it is not known when this would happen.

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Councillors who feared the government was trying to rush the process ahead of May's general election have called an extraordinary meeting of the Children's Services Committee tomorrow to debate the situation, and decide whether to authorise an application for a judicial review of the government's actions.

However, the agenda for meeting recommends that councillors exclude members of the public from the section of the meeting debating the Hewett's future.

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It cites government legislation which allows 'information in respect of which a claim to legal professional privilege could be maintained in legal proceedings' to discussed behind closed doors.

Anti-academy campaigners believe the government wants to push through the academy conversion before March 30, the start of the pre-election purdah period during which controversial decision cannot be made.

However, a letter from government lawyers last week said that a further consultation on the plans was legally required, and the Department for Education has indicated that, even if an academy order is issued, the process of converting the Hewett could not be completed before the election.

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