Primary school governors in academy row with Norfolk County Council threaten legal battle

Rob Anthony, chair of governors at Cavell Primary School. Picture by Adrian Judd for EDP

Rob Anthony, chair of governors at Cavell Primary School. Picture by Adrian Judd for EDP - Credit: Archant

The governors of an 'inadequate' primary school have threatened a legal battle with Norfolk County Council after it removed them after they resisted plans to turn it into an academy.

Ofsted inspectors put Cavell Primary School, in Duckett Close, Norwich, into special measures following an inspection in March, but a follow up visit in July found the school's improvement action plan was 'fit for purpose'.

The 275-student school is currently consulting on forming a co-operative learning trust with five nearby schools to work together to drive up improvements, which chairman of governors Rob Anthony said was being put at risk by the council's actions.

He said: 'It is clear that Norfolk County Council has abandoned schools in special measures and is no longer offering any helpful support. They are doing all they can to force them to become academies as quickly as possible, even if this disrupts carefully planned improvement.

'This will only provide further evidence to Ofsted that their work to help improve schools is still inadequate.'

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He said he received an email from the Department for Education on Tuesday saying the governing body had been removed.

A spokesman for the department said: 'Cavell Primary has a history of underperformance and this year has remained below the national and Norfolk averages for attainment in reading, writing and maths. The school was judged to require special measures, and its leadership and management was deemed inadequate by Ofsted.

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'We cannot stand by when a school is judged inadequate, and believe that becoming an academy with the support of a strong sponsor is the best way to ensure rapid and sustained improvement.'

In a move that could have implications for schools across the country, the Co-operative Schools Society, a national organisation that supports co-operative schools, is in discussion with lawyers about using the governors' grievances as a test case about the academisation process.

Mick Castle, the council's cabinet member for education and schools, said: 'We want what is best for every child in Norfolk and that includes a good education. Cavell Primary is not providing that – it is judged by Ofsted to require special measures and, as such, requires rapid improvement.

'Part of our role in schools that are inadequate is to challenge the school to ensure that it has effective plans in place to secure improvement in both the short term and the long term.

'Unfortunately, we do not believe that Cavell Primary and Nursery School is making fast enough progress or that the current leadership and governance at the school can achieve the improvements that are needed.'

The school's headteacher, Simon Wakeman, said: 'Whilst we are not opposed to school academies in the right circumstances, we are not happy to be forced to convert by a desperate local authority. They are meant to judge each school on its own merits - not apply a blanket approach to intervention.'

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