Nicky Morgan has confirmed she will hand control of the Hewett School in Norwich to local academy chain, the Inspiration Trust, despite significant opposition from the local community.
In a hugely controversial move, the education secretary has given the green light to place the Hewett School under the oversight of an academy chain run by former superhead Dame Rachel de Souza (pictured).
The decision was made despite the majority of respondents to a consultation opposing the move, and hundreds of parents and community members marching through the streets of Norwich in protest against the forced conversion of the school.
The order marks an end to what has been a bitterly fought dispute between parents, governors and the Inspiration Trust.
Concerns had been raised over claims that Dame de Souza was eager to sell off the land upon which the Hewett School sits, something she described as “baseless allegations”.
But in a letter from Lord Nash today, the Inspiration Trust has signed a legal agreement preventing it from evicting tenants on the land.
Dame de Souza said: "We are thrilled by the opportunity to make the Hewett great again for the people of Norwich.
"There is only a short time before the academy opens in September, and we are already busy working with the principal, Tom Leverage, to support his priorities for the Hewett.
"On his advice we will be refurbishing key areas of the academy this summer, using Inspiration Trust funds, and looking longer term at how we can make the more fundamental improvements the Hewett so desperately needs.”
The school was identified to be taken over by the trust after it fell into special measures last year.
The news of Ms Morgan’s decision has been greeted with disappointment by local opposition groups, such as We Back Hewett.
The inevitable just happened. Despite nobody wanting it. Democracy and localism, dead. https://t.co/IdTT7Voyef— We Back Hewett (@webackhewett) August 5, 2015
A DfE spokesman said: “Our priority is to make sure every child has the chance to get an excellent education and the best start in life. Ofsted’s recent report on the Hewett School could not be clearer that immediate change is required in order for that to happen.
“As we have seen time and again, becoming an academy with the support of a strong sponsor is the quickest and most effective way to bring about rapid and sustained improvement.
“That is why Hewett School will become an academy under Inspiration Trust, a strong sponsor with a proven track record of delivering rapid improvements in underperforming secondary schools."