Brentwood Councillor Chris Hossack has a radio show at 6pm on Friday on Brentwood’s community radio station Phoenix FM. By his own admission he works hard to keep his “radio presenter’s hat” on during interviews with his guests and, to his credit, he often succeeds.
Yesterday, for example, he invited three of his political opponents on to the show and provided them all with an opportunity to put their point of view across during which he listened carefully and conducted the interviews with the minimum of comment.
That was until he invited Cllr Mike LeSurf to give his views on the proposed use of the Sawyers Hall College site. For some reason Cllr Hossack decided that he would take off his “hat” and instead don earmuffs and a megaphone.
Cllr LeSurf gave his reasons why his preferred option for the site would be for vocational education whilst pointing out that use of the full site was yet to be decided upon. Educating Brentwood was pleased to hear the Labour representative highlight, more than once, that Becket Keys Church of England School were also required to hold a public consultation.
Cllr Hossack did not appear to hear any of this unfortunately. He instead decided to talk about when he had “had Carol Mason in here” to discuss the option and it was now dead. He had failed to understand that Mrs Mason had been talking about the Studio School proposal of six “Brentwood Heads” that had been rejected, not the University Technical College that Cllr LeSurf was referring to.
Cllr Hossack then nailled his colours firmly to the mast by failing to acknowledge the need for consultation, (“it’s going to happen”), declaring that the “majority” of Brentwood were in favour of the free school and that “people are falling over themselves to send their kids there”. A glance at yesterday’s blog may put this claim into better context.
His “presenter’s hat” now in flames at his feet, Cllr Hossack unequivocally backed Becket Keys before passing on to the next subject.
Cllr Hosack is of course absolutely entitled to his view and is at liberty to say so but what he should not be doing is reporting opinion as fact. Instead of shouting down Cllr LeSurf it may have been instructive for the listeners to hear more about what still has to be decided regarding the Sawyers Hall College site and the eventual occupants of it.
In Cllr Hossack’s defence, what else has he to go on? The consultation has been mentioned for the first time, outside the letters pages, in the local press this week (Brentwood Weekly News – see previous post). The Gazette reported two weeks ago that no other options were being considered for the site despite being advised otherwise in the letters page of the same edition.
Educating Brentwood was set up as an attempt to provide clarity on these issues where none currently exists for Brentwood residents. In that spirit the following checklist of facts may help Cllr Hossack to get up to date:
- Becket Keys Church of England School are required by the Department for Education to provide a public consultation on their plans for funding, governance, admissions and arrangements for children with Special Educational Needs (SEN). They have to present the output of this to the DfE for review before receiving full funding.
- Becket Keys have yet to confirm a date or method of consultation but have stated that these should be “finalised” by the end of February.
- Becket Keys will not be using the full Sawyers Hall College site.
- Essex CC have confirmed that they are assessing options for the remainder of the site with Partnerships for Schools who are representing the government.
- There is no public knowledge about what these options are.
- National Offer Day is March 1st 2012
- No-one is yet clear when parents holding two offers after this date will have to give one up.
Like Cllr LeSurf, Cllr Hossack may wish to follow @askbrentwood on Twitter to ensure he is fully abreast of the situation from here on and can appraise his listeners accordingly.
Brentwood deserves to be informed.