Sponsorship clash over Norwich academy

Steve DownesCity Hall bosses are on a collision course over the future of Norwich's second academy after claiming it would replace the county council as a co-sponsor if its dream of home rule went ahead.Steve Downes

There was uncertainty today over the future of Norwich's second academy after City Hall bosses claimed they would take over its running if its dream of home rule went ahead.

Norfolk County Council is currently a co-sponsor of City Academy Norwich at the former Earlham High on Earlham Road - alongside the University of East Anglia (UEA) and lead sponsor City College Norwich.

However, if the government's decision to give Norwich control of all its services, including education, goes ahead, the county council will have no councillors and limited influence in the city.

Today, this prompted Norwich City Council leader Steve Morphew to claim the county council would be removed from the role and replaced by the city council as a co-sponsor.

Mr Morphew said: 'It will be business as usual for City Academy Norwich. A new city council would automatically become the sponsor and the funding agreements would remain the same.'

However, the Evening News understands that while those running City Academy believe the county council's continued co-sponsorship would 'not make sense', they would prefer to continue with just City College and UEA.

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Sources close to the academy said they would be unlikely to accept the city council because of its previous 'abrasive attitude' to academies.

A spokesman said any change to the sponsorship must be agreed by the trustees - City College, UEA and the county council - and approved by schools secretary Ed Balls.

The situation is complicated by the fact that the county council is managing the project to build a �20m-plus complex at the City Academy Norwich site, which will replace the former Earlham High.

The trusts that run academies usually oversee the building projects, but it is understood that City College's governors were so affected by losing �4m when a Learning and Skills Council funding shortage put paid to its �173m rebuild that they were not keen to take on another big capital project.

Management was therefore handed over to County Hall, meaning that the county council will own the new academy buildings - despite having no control over any of Norwich's schools.

Mr Morphew said there was 'no hostility' towards academies and 'nothing is ruled out as being philosophically objectionable'.

A spokesman for City Academy said the unitary council announcement would not affect the development of the new complex.

He said: 'We will move into brand new buildings on the same site in September 2012 and, as a nationally funded project, this will remain on track and unaffected by any change to local government in Norfolk.'

A Norfolk County Council spokesman said: 'We are legally a sponsor of City Academy and when the academy was set up we signed an agreement to that effect. If is not currently clear what will happen if Norwich does become a unitary authority and we would need to seek clarification from the government about our role as sponsors.'

t Do you have an academy story? Call Steve Downes on 01603 772495 or email steve.downes@archant.co.uk.