'The robber barons are back' - Norwich MP Clive Lewis uses maiden speech to launch blistering attack on Inspiration Trust
PUBLISHED: 16:15 10 June 2015 | UPDATED: 11:38 11 June 2015
The Inspiration Trust - the academy chain poised to take over the Hewett School - has been accused of wanting to take £60m of land from the people of Norwich, by the new Labour MP for the city, who has launched a ferocious attack.
Statement from Inspiration Trust chief executive Rachel de Souza
“We are disappointed by Clive Lewis’ speech. We are always keen to work with our local politicians, and invited Mr Lewis to come and visit the Trust in March.
“Unfortunately he chose not to come. If he had, we could have explained that we are a not-for-profit charity whose focus is on raising educational standards in Norfolk and Suffolk.
“Far from craving ‘ever more power and wealth’ our trustees have personally donated £130,000 to support education in Norfolk this year alone, and have a strong history of personal giving.
“The future of the Hewett School is currently the subject of a public consultation. As part of that, the Inspiration Trust has repeatedly stated that - should the Hewett become part of our family of schools - we will not sell the land. Instead, we are committed to safeguarding it for educational and community use.
“Our only interest is in restoring the Hewett to its once proud position as one of the country’s best schools”
“We’ve been delighted to work with the Earlham Early Years Centre since 2009, with the centre using spare space at Norwich Primary Academy. The school’s success means we now need that space to further improve the education of our pupils.
“Far from ‘evicting’ the centre, we are working with them to find new premises and gave them twice the three-month notice required by their lease.
“We have offered a significant part of the school’s field to the centre to build a new Sure Start centre. While plans are finalised, we are happy to house a temporary building on our car park and have also offered use of our community rooms to allow parent groups to take place.”
Clive Lewis used his maiden speech in the House of Commons to raise the controversial plans to turn the Hewett School into an academy, suggesting that the organisation behind the plan want to asset strip the city and described them as “robber barons”.
Ministers want the school to join the Inspiration Trust chain of Norfolk and Suffolk academies, but the proposal has sparked a vocal anti-academy campaign.
The Norwich South MP used his debut speech, which is protected by parliamentary privilege, to launch criticise the academy chain.
He said: “Not content with taking over our schools and giving parents no say in their children’s education they [the Inspiration Trust] crave ever more power and wealth.
“Now they want to take from the people of Norwich, the Hewett Local Authority School and the £60m pounds of land it sits on - land that belongs to the people of our city.
“And then there’s the Earlham early years Sure Start centre in one of the most deprived parts of my city – now told by its new landlords, the Inspiration Trust, that they’re to be evicted and must seek new premises.
“Indeed the robber barons are back.”
At a consultation meeting earlier this week, asked whether the Inspiration Trust would sell any Hewett land, Ian Burchett, an executive principal from the Inspiration Trust in Great Yarmouth said: “Inspiration Trust will not be part of any sell off of the land.”
Asked after the meeting about the possibility of the Jane Austen College and Sir Isaac Newton Sixth Form, other Inspiration Trust schools in Norwich, moving to the Hewett site, he said: “They are in buildings and are established schools. There’s no rationale behind moving schools that are established and with pupil bodies that are very happy where they are.”
Mr Lewis, a former army reservist who served as an infantry office in Afghanistan in 2009, also used the speech to warn that “it would be a grave error to mistake my service as a guarantee of support for future military adventurism.
“It will not. Better, I think, you see me as a pragmatic dove - sadder and wiser for my experience with the limitations of firepower when it comes to achieving our long-term security.”