MP urges delay on academy plan

CHRIS FISHER, EDP Political Editor A Norwich MP urged the government today to put on ice plans for replacing Heartsease High with a controversial academy school as the city council proceeds towards unitary status.

CHRIS FISHER, EDP Political Editor

A Norwich MP urged the government today to put on ice plans for replacing Heartsease High with a controversial academy school as the city council proceeds towards unitary status.

“Unitary status changes everything”, Ian Gibson told the Commons, adding that in the new circumstances there should be a moratorium on the academy scheme.

He later told the EDP that as an education authority, a unitary 'Greater Norwich' council might not be in favour of the academy plan and that it should not proceed in the time before that council is established.

The Norwich North MP is passionately opposed to the Heartsease academy proposal under which the government would invest at least £20m in a new school and the Norwich Diocese and Christian businessman Graham Dacre would contribute another £2m.

In his Commons speech he described Mr Dacre, founder of the Lind Automative Group, as “a Pentecostal ex-car dealer”. And he argued that “if you are going to run education it would help to know a little about it”.

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The Heartsease school had had troubles in the past, said Dr Gibson, but it was now in the highest range of “value-added” measurement of educational progress, and it was dispiriting that this was not being rewarded.

He expressed concern about the impact of the academy, if implemented, on the BlythJex School and Sprowston High and he stressed that having a lot of money should not be enough to become a sponsor.

“If you gave me £25m I could take these three schools into the stratosphere”, said Dr Gibson, a former lecturer at the University of East Anglia.

The format of the end of term adjournment debate - the Commons afterwards went into its summer recess - meant that there was no ministerial response to his comments.

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