Prime Minister defends school takeovers when quizzed on Hewett School academy proposals in Norwich

Simon Wright outside Castle Mall. Photo: Steve Adams

Simon Wright outside Castle Mall. Photo: Steve Adams

Prime Minister David Cameron has defended Government moves to take over failing schools after Norwich MP Simon Wright raised concerns about plans to turn the Hewett School into an academy.

The Liberal Democrat used the weekly House of Commons question session to tell MPs the 'centrally imposed proposal' from the Department for Education went 'against the spirit of localism'.

It emerged this week that the Hewett School is set to become an academy sponsored by the Inspiration Trust.

The school, in Cecil Road, Norwich, was put into special measures in November, and the government expects such schools to become academies.

The council instead wanted it to be a 'learning village', including enhanced early years activity, an extended adult education presence, and a family and community support centre.

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Mr Cameron said he would look at the proposal, but added: 'What we have done is make sure that where schools are not succeeding, and where schools are coasting, then yes, they are taken over and turned around.

'I think it is very important that we intervene on behalf of local parents and make sure that happens, but I will look at the specific case that he mentions.'

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If the Hewett and Sewell Park College, which is also in special measures, become academies, there would be no non-academy high schools left in Norwich.

Norfolk County Council George Nobbs has pledged to fight the plans in the courts, after ministers rejected the local authority's choice of interim governors for the school.

The government will hold a consultation lasting 10 working days with the Hewett's foundation trust, which owns the land, after which education secretary Nicky Morgan will 'consider all representations before making a final decision'.

In a letter, education minister Lord Nash said: 'The Secretary of State is minded to use her powers and make an Academy Order in accordance with section four of the Academies Act 2010 with a view to the school becoming an academy within Sir Theodore Agnew's Inspiration Trust.'

It would be the first time ministers have turned a Norfolk school into an academy without receiving a request from its governors, or interim executive board.

Academy conversions do not become legally irreversible until a funding agreement has been signed. If a decision is not made by March 30, it is believed it will have to be postponed until after the general election.

The Inspiration Trust's existing schools in the city include the Jane Austen College, Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form, and Norwich Primary Academy.

Chief executive Dame Rachel de Souza said the DfE had asked it if it would sponsor the Hewett if it became an academy.

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