MP under fire over school’s campaign

Simon Wright MP, chats with one of the campaign organisers, Tina Boulter, front, as concerned parent

Simon Wright MP, chats with one of the campaign organisers, Tina Boulter, front, as concerned parents campaign to stop Cavell Primary school becoming an academy. Picture: Denise Bradley - Credit: copyright: Archant 2013

A Norwich MP has denied accusations he is 'two-faced' for signing a letter calling for more academies, while showing support to an anti-academy campaign at Cavell Primary School.

Simon Wright, who was photographed with parents who were holding campaign posters saying 'Save Cavell - No to Academy', said he had explicitly told them during a meeting in Norwich, that there may well be an academy sponsor which could achieve what the parents wanted for the school when he met them last month.

Norfolk County Council removed the school's governors because they wanted to form a co-operative trust with nearby schools, before considering academisation, and appointed an interim executive board (IEB) which will decide the school's future.

It came after Ofsted said the school was 'inadequate' in May, but a follow up inspection in July found its improvement plan was 'fit for purpose'.

Mr Wright met parents after they launched an online petition against an academy, which received more than 1,000 signatures, where he publically criticised Norfolk County Council for its push to convert the primary school into an academy, because he said parents had not been involved.

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Just over a week later he co-signed a letter with the other nine Norfolk MPs in which he encouraged more schools to convert to academy status, adding: 'We believe that this is the way forward for Norfolk schools and will drive improvements as well as assisting with budget issues.'

Chair of Co-operatives UK, Chris Herries, who lives in Norwich, described Mr Wright as 'two-faced'.

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She said: 'This is the MP who told the parents of Cavell School Lakenham that he supported them and the local schools forming a cooperative trust. A few days later he signed a letter with other Norfolk MPs saying that all Norfolk Schools would be better off as academies.'

But Mr Wright said he had never been an anti-academy campaigner and it was up to the IEB to decide what was best.

'In my view parents were in a situation where they believed a clear way forward for the school was a cooperative trust, a consultation was held and that was considered to be a way forward for the school to improve it performance. Very late in the day, a matter of days before that cooperative trust came into affect the council took steps to bring forward the IED and there was no real communication with parents at that stage. It is quite understandable that they feel upset and angry at that point. I have been quite critical of the county on that basis.'

But he said that he had never been an anti-academy campaigner.

He said that it was up to the IEB to decide what was best for the school. 'We are working in a slightly grey area at the moment though in that it is not clear who the sponsor would be.'

'I have never ruled out Cavell becoming an academy. It is one potential way forward for the school. What I have been quite clear on also is that the IEB is there to do its job, and we should let it get on and do that and make its recommendation.'

He said: 'I recall saying at the meeting that there may well be a sponsor out there that can achieve what we want to achieve.'

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