Non, je ne regrette rien.

Yesterday, after a long and often bruising fight, we ‘lost’ our campaign against the hostile academisation of my daughter’s school, the Hewett in Norwich.

Except we didn’t lose. We didn’t lose, because we couldn’t lose. It’s impossible to lose, in my opinion, when the other side is cheating.

The moral victory is ours: we played by the rules; they didn’t.

We proved to them, via a publicly funded consultation, that Inspiration Trust was unwelcome at Hewett.

They ignored it.

We spoke unanimously against them at our final public meeting.

They ignored it.

The Guardian newspaper leaked revolting email correspondence between the two worst offenders in this hideous stinking mess – Rachel de Souza, the CEO of Inspiration Trust, and the board’s chair Theo Agnew – in which de Souza described herself as SICK at Hewett’s Ofsted success in 2013. Was the school ‘vulnerable’ again, she wondered, when exam results later fell? Agnew remarked on her ‘cunning ways’.

They all had cunning ways, as it turned out: not only de Souza and Agnew, but all of their chums too: Lord Nash, the Academies Minister; Tim Coulson, the Regional Schools Commissioner; Nicky Morgan, the Secretary of State for Education. They all had their fingers in pockets and pies, and the stench of Tory cronyism is strong in Norwich today.

So I’ve woken up this morning with one or two regrets. I’m regretting the fact that gagging clauses and widespread fear meant that so few Inspiration Trust teachers were able to go on the record with the shocking stories they told me in confidence. Perhaps I should have got naked and chained myself to the railings or thrown myself under de Souza’s chauffeur driven car or the hooves of her Tory chums’ polo ponies. I’m regretting the ratio of food to alcohol in my life last night, when I slunk to the pub in the rain after helping to cover the gate of our school in Crime Scene tape, and regretting the paltry amount of sleep I’ve had for the tossing and turning and nightmarish visions of this...

Smugshot.

Smugshot.

I’m regretting the fact that Look East cut me to ribbons last night and gave squirming and gurning de Souza free reign to suggest that I’m some kind of numbskull who just hasn’t seen the light yet. She admires our passion. She hopes (gurn gurn) that we’ll later become her biggest supporters. (The words: ‘dead’ and ‘body’, ‘not’ and ‘over’ spring to mind.)

But there’s one thing I’m not regretting…

I’m not regretting this campaign. I never will. Look what happened last night, with an hour’s notice. All of these lovely people arrived in the absolute pissing rain, and they stood in support of our school. They brought banners and signs.

Screenshot 2015-08-06 08.51.08

Screenshot 2015-08-06 08.36.24

A supporter made this, in ‘honour’ of the Hewett’s new logo (rustled up within 24 hours if you believe the bastards at Inspiration Trust):

Hewett crime scene 2

We hugged and talked and commiserated. We spoke to reporters and had our pictures taken and wiped the drizzle from our faces and, later on, went to the pub and got drunk. (Well, one of us did…) Someone (who won’t allow me to name her) did something just beyond lovely for me, and I thank her from the bottom of my heart. Hewett kids and Hewett parents and local residents stood proud in the rain. Our school isn’t perfect. We’re not perfect. But we’re something else, something better: we are decent human beings.

I have met the most astonishing, amazing, and good-hearted people in the course of this long and hard campaign (too many to name individually, although Jo and Emma deserve special mention). I have found my own voice again (it was down the back of the sofa for most of 2014), and watched other people find theirs. I have tweeted and blogged and written emails and stood shouting in school halls and gone on the telly box and the radio and flung my whole self at this campaign, and the reason I’ve done all this is quite simple: it was the right thing to do.

Unlike the delightful Dame Rachel, I’m not a believer in God. But I reckon if he did exist, he’d be on our side. He’d have been outside those gates getting soaked last night (or, possibly, stopping it from raining at all…).

So the Inspiration Trust may have stolen our school, but you know? Be careful what you wish for. Because we come with it. We’re not going anywhere. We are Hewett. And this is only the beginning.

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19 reasons we want Inspiration Trust to do the goddamned decent thing and back away from Hewett. (You won’t *believe* no 9!)

A bunch of noobs called Inspiration Trust (who’ve been in the edukashun business since way back in the dim and distant days of 2012) want to ‘sponsor’ my daughter’s secondary school, the Hewett in Norwich. (Translation: snaffle the 54 acre site, valued by the Local Authority in 2009 at £60 million.) Here’s why they shouldn’t.

1. This email from their CEO Rachel de Souza, describing herself as ‘sick’ at a ‘Good’ Ofsted rating for our school.

2. This twitter convo with the Guardian’s education correspondent Warwick Mansell in which they go all coy, suddenly, about their future plans for the school’s 54 acre site.

Funny how it's 'all hypothetical' when challenged on a point of squirmy fact... yet they're happy to advertise no 3 on their website weeks in advance of the consultation even *starting*...

Funny how it’s ‘all hypothetical’ when challenged on a point of squirmy fact… yet they’re happy to advertise no. 3 (see below) on their website weeks in advance of the consultation even *starting*…

3. The fact this was on their website (see above) before the consultation even began. 

Investigations 'under way' for a high level sports facility...

Note bullet point 2: Investigations ‘underway’ for a high level sports facility…

4. These minutes from a totally impartial meeting with our IEB (Interim Executive Board: the peeps parachuted in by the lovely government after they kicked out our own school governors – by email! – and refused the IEB put forward by Norfolk County Council. Sounds legit.) Inspiration Trust are so terribly nonchalant and blasé about Hewett’s 54 acre site that they didn’t even think to mention it at the meetings they shouldn’t even have been invited to – oh no, wait, hang on! They did kinda sorta mention it…

You bet your ass there was a 'discussion'. I'm speculating here but, 'Get those chavs off my bloody land!' is the way I imagine it unfolding...

You bet your ass there was a ‘discussion’. I’m speculating here but, ‘Get those chavs off my bloody land!’ is the way I imagine it unfolding…

5. The fact that our ‘consultation’ was more of an insulting con.

Because HaslamDodd ran the consultation meetings with all the impartiality of a foot fetishist contemplating someone's toes.

HaslamDodd ran the consultation meetings with all the impartiality of a foot fetishist contemplating someone’s toes. ‘You’ve said enough already,’ as Sheree Dodd was fond of remarking.

6. Because the ‘independent consultants’ running our consultation said they publicised the meetings as hard as they possibly could, honest guv…

Because they said they publicised the meetings as well as they possibly could...

But they actually didn’t (love how the meeting was advertised in the local paper the day before…):

Because that wasn't actually true.

7. The sorry excuse for a questionnaire provided to us by HaslamDodd. It was (a) shit and (b) mostly written by Inspiration Trust themselves. And (c) there was no paper copy sent home with Hewett pupils which, hello, would have been an obvious move if you were genuine about widespread consultation. But who am I? Certainly not a firm of taxpayer funded ‘independent’ consultants.

For ‘The IEB regarded it as very important blah blah’ read: ‘Rachel de Souza regarded it as her god-given and inalienable right to waste taxpayer money on a marketing exercise’.

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Naturellement I pointed this out to them on The Twitter.

8. Because even though the consultation found eighty percent were against Inspiration Trust it still isn’t good enough for them…

Fave quote from one of ’em:

‘Deciding on the proposed changes to the Hewett School is not about a popularity contest or about making symbolic gestures – it is making sure the children of Norwich get the best possible start in life… Changes are needed to restore the Hewett to the full, bustling, and great place it once was, and we believe the Inspiration Trust has an important part to play in that transformation.’

You can read my response to them here.

Eh? Does that mean we can re-run the election cos of the silent majority?

Eh? Does that mean we can re-run the election cos of the silent majority?

9. The unbelievable truth that the civil servant who gets to decide the school’s future is a personal friend of Rachel de Souza…

Can you Adam and Eve it?

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10. And the gobsmacking fact that the Academies Minister, Lord Nash, is a personal friend of Sir Theo Agnew, the chair of Inspiration Trust. (Oh yes, and Theo also chaired the Department for Education’s Academy Board until Gove ejected him recently to cock up the home office instead.) Let the back scratching commence!

Chortling IT

Here they are chortling together outside Isaac Newton Sixth Form, housed in the old fire station and gifted to them at a knock-down rent by one of their millionaire mates. Sir Theo of Agnew is on the left of the picture, Lord of Nash beside him. Who’s that lady? Oh, it’s Rachel de Souza of course! Mwa ha ha ha ha.

11. His Majesty Sir Theo of Agnew’s usage of the vile phrase ‘cunning ways’ in reference to the Machiavellian machinations of Dame Rachel. (For sauce, see the Guardian article in no.1.) (Apologies, I meant source. Of course.)

12. The fact that Norwich has been telling them to sod off for months.

Hundreds of us marched in protest. Two thousand of us signed a petition against them. What does it take?!?!

Hundreds of us marched in protest. Two thousand of us signed a petition against them. Are they thick-skinned or what?!

13. The fact that Her Royal Dameness Rachel de Souza is a tiny bit chickenshit, let’s be honest.

RdSprivate

14. This chock-full-of-platitudes response from Education Secretary Nicky Morgan (in the run-up to the election):

nickymorganballs

I rewrote it for her cos I’m nice like that.

15. The fact that Inspiration Trust were allowed to write the advertisement for Hewett’s head teacher before the consultation began. (I’m sorry: assist in writing it. Excuse me while I go slap my wrist.)

16. The fact that Inspiration Trust SUCK at snark. (Although much respect for the lovely kids in this video and I’m genuinely glad you’re doing so well. Sorry that IT saw fit to use you as emotional blackmail.)

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17. The fact they think this is a good use of taxpayer money. Skip ahead to 5.50 if you want the fright of your life.

18. The fact that Inspiration Trust are evicting a brilliant Sure Start centre (my old nursery, peeps) that’s been around (in one form or another) since 1939:

EEYC

Sign the petition here to help save EEYC: http://www.clivelewis.org/saveeeyc

19. Last but not least… because Hewett kids are fab and do fab stuff like this.

Need I go on?

*As you will have noticed, there was nothing particularly shocking about no 9. ‘Twas nowt but a cunning ploy. What’s good enough for Buzzfeed/Upworthy is good enough for me.

Lynsey White’s journey to fighting against the Inspiration Trust

*Please note: this post has been edited.*

In writing this post I have been inspired by an inspirational post on the inspirational website of the inspirational academy chain called Inspiration Trust.

I am no longer going to link to this post, nor name the author. Perhaps it is unfair to single out an individual and perhaps it detracts from the larger battle. Perhaps it should also be noted that individuals can be placed under pressure by companies for whom they work.

Nevertheless, this particular individual was happy to sling the first blow by suggesting that those who sit on the sidelines shouting and moaning about his employers, Inspiration Trust, were basing their observations on nothing more than ‘lazy twitter comments’.

Here’s one of these lazy twitter comments. Actually, it took me a whole four seconds to take that photograph. Another ten seconds or so to upload it and a minute or two to compose an appropriately concise slogan.

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But it’s taken weeks and weeks and weeks of being ignored by the Department for Education and Inspiration Trust for me to reach the point of snark. If de Souza had come and fecking well asked if we wanted to give her our 54-acre school site, worth approximately £60 million, we’d have told her very politely: ‘No! But thanks for asking.’ and sent her on her way.

However she has never asked. And never will.

People ought to ask. They really ought. Along comes a group of venture capitalists and Tory donors. Along they come. And they can prise your locally-owned school from your poor, cold fingers, and snaffle the freehold, and cream off the profits from businesses run on the site (never mind that Norwich taxpayers paid for that site), and splurge taxpayers’ cash on designer tea sets and furniture (£420 for a Vera Wang tea set; over £3000 for two armchairs) whilst advertising for cut-rate unqualified teachers and driving away the ardent, the outspoken, the unionised… (Look at their staff turnover if you don’t believe me: it isn’t just the unionised pains-in-the-butt, either…)

They’re not great at IT, either, in spite of their chain’s initials…

Neither has Sir Theodore Agnew, the chair of Inspiration Trust, come cap in hand to Hewett and said, ‘Hello, lovely yokels! May we please have your school and all its land?’ Theo Agnew is also, since you probably didn’t think to ask but ought to have done (because, hello Tory democracy!), the chair of the Department for Education’s Academies Board. Oh, and also he sits on Policy Exchange, the right-wing think tank which ‘advises’ the Department for Education on all matters educational. Did I forget to mention he’s great friends with Lord Nash, the DfE’s Academies Minister? Perhaps I neglected to say that he’s also a Tory donor, to the tune of several hundred thousand pounds. Oh, and one last thing! He made his fortune outsourcing work to India, where graduates could happily earn a pittance for doing jobs for which he’d have had to pay unskilled British workers more. 

Actually it isn’t the last thing, since I probably ought to say that he went to an independent school (Rugby, I think, off the top of my head), failed his eleven plus, and has a crinkly fat-cut chip on his shoulder about anyone and anything to do with education.

Such are the men (for they are, primarily, men, with Trophy Woman Rachel de Souza providing the female touch) who are taking slow hold (and I said ‘slow’ because I like the way slow and hold sounded together, quite menacing, although in fact they’re doing it rather quickly; rather bloody quickly indeed) of our education system and please, please, please will everyone stop wetting themselves over the r*yal baby and find the inspiration to sit up and say, actually, no, we don’t want all our schools to fall into the hands of private businessmen who do this sort of thing with them.

And hence my journey: not to work for Inspiration Trust, but to oppose them.

At Hethersett Academy, owned by Inspiration Trust, there is a tiny room. It is the isolation room. It is where children are sent to spend the day alone when misbehaving. It is a room where a child with special educational needs can be sent to spend the day alone.

It isn’t called Room 101. But it doesn’t have to be, does it?

This is where we are heading if we don’t do something now.