Beccles Free School: Rob Cawley the "not so independent adjudicator" appointed Principal

Rob Cawley
The Beccles and Bungay Journal report today that Rob Cawley has been appointed by the Seckford Foundation as Principal Designate of Saxmundham and Beccles Free Schools (later this will include Stoke by Nayland and Ixworth if they are approved too).

Readers of this Blog may remember that I wrote an article speculating that he might apply for the post back in early March. Rob Cawley chaired the Beccles Free school consultation meeting in Hungate on 27th January the EDP reported that:
"The meeting was led by independent adjudicator Rob Cawley, who was appointed by Cambridge Education, the team employed by the Department for Education to see if the bid is viable" (my emphasis)
It is clear that is is how he was introduced to the meeting from another eye witness account available on Wikisuffolk.

In fact Cambridge Education are project managers working for the Seckford Foundation but paid for by the DfE and and employed Rob Cawley, a former Suffolk headteacher who works for another consultancy Leading Schools to lead consultation meetings.

Cambridge Education project managed the Norwich Free School and are understood to be likely to project manage the Beccles and Saxmundham bids if they are approved. They also handled the recruitment of the Principal (and are handing the two Headteacher posts as well).

Rob Cawley was until last year Executive Headteacher of both Deben and Orwell High Schools in Felixstowe. When the schools merged to form Felixstowe Academy, sponsored by AET, Cawley did not stay. The Evening Star reported that:
We would have been delighted if Mr Cawley would have accepted the post but he has chosen not to be part of the academy. This is a very private matter for Mr Cawley. It is his choice not to stay and I cannot discuss it.
It was widely understood at the time that Cawley did not want to work for an academy chain and since that time he has been working for educational consultancy Leading Schools as a Senior Associate. Leading Schools website disappeared a few weeks ago and was replaced with this holding page:

Meanwhile there have been reports that Cawley and other members of Leading Schools have been involved in the proposal for a Felixstowe free school, ironically on a site closing because of the creation of a single site Felixstowe Academy. A project led for much of its life by Cawley himself.

Felixtowe is a town of around 30,000 is considerably larger than Beccles and what is curious is that during his time there Rob Cawley was advancing exactly the opposite policy that the Seckford Foundation are in Beccles. He was proposing that in a town three times the size that the two high schools were merged together to form "one school". 

In fact you can see two videos of Rob Cawley on Felixstowe TV talking with great passion about these plans and also re-assuring parents that the size of the proposed school was not an issue comparing it to Farlingaye High in Woodbridge and also explaining that a "school within a school" system would make it seem smaller for the children. 

Video from Felixstowe TV
Seckford have constantly stated the small size of their proposed schools as a major advantage and that the Ixworth Free School proposers have constantly complained that Thurston Community College will be "too big" despite operating almost exactly the same school within a school (House) system advanced by Cawley.

Video from Felixstowe TV
Indeed Rob Cawley also appears, bizarrely, to agree with the Head of Sir John Leman High about the impact that another school could bring. He is reported in the January 2011 edition of the Felixstowe Flyer as saying:

Cawley is of course right "the more students there are, the more money comes in and the more courses we can run. The reverse means that the more students study elsewhere, the less money we have and the less courses and opportunities we can provide". Such, as Headteacher Jeremey Rowe has pointed out, is what is likely to happen at Sir John Leman School in Beccles if the Free School goes ahead.
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