Norwich’s Hewett School looks set to become an academy after learning village hopes ‘torpedoed’
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A vision for the future of the Hewett School looks to have been torpedoed, after the government refused to accept the board members who would have driven the creation of a 'learning village'.
Instead, the Department for Education has proposed its own board and asked officials to find sponsors for the school to become an academy.
The move has infuriated school governors and county councillors, who accused the government of riding roughshod over the views of the community. Seven hundred people had signed a petition organised by Green city councillor Stephen Little calling for it not to become an academy.
Norfolk County Council says the government has not given them a reason why the proposed interim executive board for the school has been rejected and Sheila Lock, interim director of children's services has written to ask for an explanation.
The county council had been keen to avoid the Cecil Road school, which was plunged into special measures in November after Ofsted inspectors said it was 'inadequate', from being turned into an academy.
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They had proposed transforming it into a 'learning village'. They said, alongside improving education for the 600 pupils currently being taught on the site, that could see further provision of post-16 education, enhanced early years activity, new facilities for children with special educational needs, an extended adult education presence and a family and community support centre.
But the letter to the council, from Lord Nash, parliamentary under secretary of state for education, in which he proposes the government's choices for the interim executive board, also states that he has asked officials to consider suitable sponsors for an academy.
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The government has made clear the expectation is that schools judged inadequate by watchdogs should become academies.
If Hewett does go down that route, then, with Sewell Park College also potentially doing likewise, it would mean every secondary school in Norwich itself would be an academy.
George Nobbs, Labour leader of Norfolk County Council, said: 'We have been trying to put right the wrongs we inherited in children's services for the past 20 months. It is like trying to turn around an ocean liner and we did not expect the people who are supposed to be the coastguards to torpedo us while we were trying to do it.
'The thing that annoys me is that, nearly two months after we put forward our learning village proposals they have not responded - other than to tell us they have rejected our board without explanation.'
Sue Whitaker, a governor at the school and Labour county councillor for Lakenham, said: 'It's an absolute disservice to parents, children and staff at the Hewett, who have been left in limbo.'
A Department for Education spokesman said: 'Ofsted's recent report on the Hewett School could not be clearer that immediate change is needed in order for pupils to fulfil their potential.
'Following discussions with the local authority, it was felt that the council's application for an IEB would not secure the necessary improvements at the school.
'We are proposing putting in place an interim board of education experts with the skills and experience needed to improve the school. We are awaiting the council's response and it would be inappropriate to comment further at this stage.'
• Do you have an education story? Call education correspondent Martin George on 01603 772468 or email firstname.lastname@example.org