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This is what academisation in Norwich looks like

This shipping container is the new home for much of Earlham Early Years’ Sure Start Centre.

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It’s where the vast bulk of the toys and equipment belonging to the Sure Start Centre now reside. 

That’s because they were, until recently, tenants of the Inspiration Trust – the owners of Norwich Primary Academy (Formerly Larkman Primary School). That is until Inspiration decided to end the centre’s tenancy, mid-contract, and told them to seek new premises.

The Sure Start, which caters to one of the most socio-economically deprived wards in the city, is still operating and open to the families who rely on them.

But that’s thanks only to the hard work and sheer dedication of the County Council Earlham Early Years nursery and staff next door. To their credit they have managed to squeeze what they can of the Sure Start into their already cramped nursery site. However, like its toys and equipment, many of the health workers and language experts have been forced elsewhere, to sites miles away.

To add insult to injury, we the tax-payer are now being landed with a bill for around £750,000 – the cost to our cash-strapped County Council - to rebuild and re-home this crucial community resource.

 Like the approximately £100m pounds worth of land and buildings the Inspiration Trust have just ‘acquired’ at Hewett School, the fate of Earlham Sure Start lays bare the reality of academisation.

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

Many will have heard the attempt of the Inspiration Trust to appoint me onto 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 offered the chance of joining the ‘Parent Advisory Panel’ – a mockery of parental involvement that can be ignored or disbanded at the whim of the Inspiration Trust.

Academies like the Inspiration Trust are the cutting edge of predatory capitalism. They’re driven by a Tory Party so ideologically degenerate they endanger the very fabric of our democracy. They take what they want from us, do what they want to our children and communities with impunity and all whilst expecting our passive acceptance.  

Well not any more.

Every school in this city the Inspiration Trust wants, it 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.

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Last weekend we began that process in Earlham.  Around 20 Labour Party members knocked on doors and began the process of speaking to local people and explained 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. People care about their community, care about their friends and neighbours.

If the Labour Party is to eve return to government then it needs to be rooted in all our communities. Needs to show it is relevant and has answers that offer a real alternative to the destructive policies that have and continue to be pursued by this government.

The image of our ‘Sure Start Centre 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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