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Academy Watch: Public launch of group hoping to hold academies in Norfolk to account

Warwick Mansell speaking at the launch of Academy Watch's report at City Hall in Norwich. Picture: Mary MacMaster

Warwick Mansell speaking at the launch of Academy Watch's report at City Hall in Norwich. Picture: Mary MacMaster

Archant

A group hoping to hold academies and free schools in Norfolk to account was officially launched at a public meeting.

Neil MacMaster speaking at the launch of Academy Watch's report. Picture: Mary MacMasterNeil MacMaster speaking at the launch of Academy Watch's report. Picture: Mary MacMaster

Though Academy Watch has been up and running for some time, a meeting at City Hall in Norwich on Tuesday night was something of a “public launch” for the group, Norwich City Council leader Alan Waters said.

Made up of parents, councillors, activists and teachers, its purpose is to demand transparency from academies, support those affected during academisation and publish research.

Mr Waters said the “intense academisation programme” in the county, and particularly Norwich, had led to concerns over transparency and accountability in academies and multi-academy trusts.

“It seems to me it is a proper and democratic exercise to throw light on how these organisations operate,” he said.

The meeting coincided with the launch of the group’s first report, which focuses on the success of academies in Norwich and reflects on the last nine years since the city’s first academy, Open Academy, opened in 2008.

The report covers league tables, the impact of so-called “exam factories”, accountability of academies and the campaigning of local politicians.

Neil MacMaster, who presented the report at Tuesday’s meeting, described the academy programme as an “unnecessary experiment” which had not worked.

“One of the reasons we are doing this is so we can find a basis for moving forward,” he said.

“We want to work in more detail on models of good practice and accountability. This is not the end of the story, it is the beginning.”

The report claims academisation has deepened inequality in Norwich and stripped teachers and parents of meaningful involvement with children’s education.

But, responding to a public query, Mr MacMaster said the group was not coming from a “globally anti-academy approach” and wanted to, in the long term, work alongside academies.

The meeting heard from national journalist Warwick Mansell, who has written extensively on academies.

He said there should be “maximum transparency” in schools, and said the models used to organise and run schools were key.

To find out more, email academywatchnorfolk@gmail.com

Do you have an education story we should be writing about? Let us know by emailing lauren.cope@archant.co.uk

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