Evening News: Sure Start centre's removal is why I'll be scrutinising trust's every decision


This is what academisation looks like. This shipping container, below, is the new home for much of Earlham Early Years' Sure Start Centre. It's where the vast bulk of the toys and equipment belonging to the Sure Start Centre and used by local children now reside. 

That's because the centre, until recently, was a tenant of the Inspiration Trust - the owners of Norwich Primary Academy (formerly Larkman Primary School).

This is until Inspiration decided to end the centre's tenancy, mid-contract, and told it to seek new premises - kicking our centre out of the premises.

Sure Start, which caters to one of the most socio-economically deprived communities in the city is still operating and open to the families who rely on it - as is the nursery on the same site.

But that's thanks only to the hard work and sheer dedication of the county council-funded Earlham Early Years Centre and Nursery and staff next door. To their credit, they have managed to squeeze what they can out of the Sure Start into their already cramped nursery site. But health visitors are now having to operate out of a business centre located a long walk from the nursery, the school and the remnants of the Sure Start Centre. Speech therapists no longer have a dedicated space to work from and pre-school age children at the nursery don't have the free access to outside space the nursery planned.

To add insult to injury, we, the taxpayers, could be landed with a bill for around £750,000 - the cost to our cash-strapped county council - to rebuild and rehome this crucial community resource.

That's £750,000 that could and should be spent on vital services for our growing numbers of older people or spent on improving the life chances of other children elsewhere in our city. Or even to try to slightly soften the impact of almost £300m of cuts the county is being subjected to.

Before our very eyes millions of pounds of assets - assets belonging to each and every one of us - are being handed over to what are in effect private institutions (no matter what they call themselves). In additional, parental choice and a real say in our children's education is being decimated, school-by-school.

Many will have heard of the attempt of the Inspiration Trust to appoint me on to the Hewett's governing body.

And herein lies the problem. Who is the Inspiration Trust to appoint me to this governing body? Where is the democratic accountability? The transparency? How come I get an invite and yet most parents only get the chance of joining some kind of "parent advisory group" - a mockery of parental involvement that can be ignored or disbanded at the whim of the Inspiration Trust.

Academdies like the Inspiration Trust are in a new and dangerous vanguard of organisations with a smiley PR exterior - wolves in sheep's clothing. They're driven by a Tory party so ideologically degenerate they endanger the very fabric of our democracy. This is a government that takes what they want from us, does what it wants to our children and communities with impunity. Expecting our passive acceptance because, apparently, there is no other way and it's for our own good - as judged by their own standards.

Well not any more.

Every school which organisations like the Inspiration Trust wants they will have to fight for. The days of easy acquisition are over. Every decision they take will be scrutinised. Every impact on our communities highlighted and explained.

Last month we began that process in Earlham. A large group of Labour Party members knocked on doors and began the process of speaking to local people - explaining to them what was happening to their Sure Start. In all my time here campaigning in Norwich I've never seen a response like it. It was a revelation to me after having last been there as a candidate during the general election campaign. People care about their community, care about their friends and neighbours.

The image of our "Sure Start Centre and our kids' toys in a shipping container" will be used over and over again to shame this Tory policy. It's a symbol of all that is wrong with not just academies but this entire government and its warped, greedy and anti-democratic ideology.

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