‘We’re up for the fight’ say campaigners who want to stop Norwich school becoming an academy

Campaigners have vowed to fight for the future of the Hewett School in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELL

Campaigners have vowed to fight for the future of the Hewett School in Norwich. Picture: ANTONY KELLY - Credit: Archant

Campaigners have pledged to fight to stop the Hewett School from being turned into an academy, after the government dealt a blow to hopes for a learning village on the site.

The Norwich school was placed in special measures in November after Ofsted inspectors said it was 'inadequate' - a verdict which, in the case of other failing schools, has seen them turned into academies.

More than 700 people signed a petition against such a move and Norfolk County Council came up with a learning village proposal for the site.

That would see an improved school sitting alongside 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, this week the government refused to accept the board members who would have driven the creation of that 'learning village'.

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Instead, the Department for Education proposed its own board and asked officials to find sponsors for the Cecil Road school to become an academy.

But campaigners and parents have vowed to challenge a move towards an academy. Stephen Little, a Green city councillor, who has a son at the school helped organise the 'We're Backing Hewett' petition and said the fight would continue. He said: 'The government has flown in the face of the wishes of local people. All political parties on the county council, together with the local MP and the many parents who have supported our campaign were able to see potential in the learning village idea.

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'It's a shame that the government's narrow and ideologically-motivated agenda didn't allow them to share in that vision. We intend to challenge this decision. This fight is not over.'

Norwich South MP Simon Wright, said he was 'puzzled' by the Department for Education's decision and would be seeking an explanation.

He said: 'This must be very frustrating for parents at the school, who have been really concerned about the recent Ofsted report and will want reassurances over the short-term and long-term future.

'I thought the county council's proposal of a learning village had quite a lot of merit and I'm concerned that the course of action now being taken means that is less likely to happen.

'The sort of people the department is proposing for the board seem quite similar to the local authority proposal, so I'm puzzled over that. I will be going back to the department to seek clarity on this and I think the county council is right to challenge them.'

Clive Lewis, Labour's prospective parliamentary candidate for Norwich South, said: 'I have spoken to Labour colleagues and I know we are up for the fight on this. I think it is hugely disappointing for people across the city. 'We had worked with the community and the various organisations which would be part of the learning village.

'The community have made clear they want to keep it as a community school and not part of an academy chain and this has been two fingers to the community.'

The Department for Education had said they did not feel the council's proposed board would secure the necessary improvements at the school.

• Do you have an education story? Call education correspondent Martin George on 01603 772468 or email martin.george@archant.co.uk

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