Norfolk academy trust chief named national children's commissioner

Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust.

Rachel de Souza, chief executive of the Inspiration Trust. - Credit: Tom Barnes

The chief executive of a Norfolk academy trust is set to step down after being appointed children’s commissioner for England.

Dame Rachel de Souza, the chief executive of the Inspiration Trust which runs 14 schools across Norfolk and Suffolk, was appointed to the national role by education secretary Gavin Williamson.

She replaces the current children’s commissioner for England, Anne Longfield OBE, who has held the post since 2015. 

Inspiration Trust, which runs schools including Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, has secured £26,800

Great Yarmouth Charter Academy, one of 14 Inspiration Trust schools in Norfolk and Suffolk. - Credit: David Hannant

The role is to promote and protect the rights of children with a particular focus on those with difficulties or challenges, such as those living away from home, in care, or receiving social services help.

Dame Rachel, who was honoured in 2014 for her services to education, said: “We all know just how difficult Covid has been for children and families up and down the country, I am going to play my part in helping level up opportunities for children, and ensuring their welfare everywhere, as we come through this difficult time and look towards a more positive future.”

Dame Rachel de Souza, CEO of Inspiration Trust, and Sue Baldwin, regional schools commissioner, open

Dame Rachel de Souza and Sue Baldwin, regional schools commissioner, opening new facilities at Hethersett Academy this year.  - Credit: Inspiration Trust

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Dame Rachel was the founding Inspiration Trust chief executive which has taken on turning around challenging schools in some of Norfolk’s most deprived areas.

The trust also opened the first specialist maths sixth form in the country, Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form, in 2013, and supports two of the top performing schools in Norwich - Jane Austen College and Hethersett Academy.

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She said: “I’m going to miss leading the Inspiration Trust - we’ve achieved so many fantastic things in the last eight years. 

“From turning Great Yarmouth Charter Academy around and developing a nationally-recognised curriculum to opening the first maths and science specialist sixth form. 

The new Sir Isaac Newton sixth form in the old fire station in Norwich city centre. Photo: Bill Smit

Sir Isaac Newton sixth form in the old fire station in Norwich city centre.  - Credit: Bill Smith - Archant

“We’ve also faced a number of challenges, which we came together as a family of schools to overcome.

"I’m proud to have witnessed the community spirit of Norfolk and Suffolk - it’s a time in my life that I will truly treasure.”

David Tibble, trust chair, said: “We’ll now be looking for a new chief executive to lead the Inspiration Trust in this new chapter.

"In the meantime, the trust has a fantastic leadership team and we are putting the right processes in place to ensure the transition will be well-managed.”

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