Becket Keys confirm intended start date for consultation…but little else.

Two new statements appeared on the proposed Becket Keys Church of England School website this morning (21st February). The first is confirmation that the statutory public consultation required to secure full funding should begin in “early March” The full statement is as follows:

“The Funding Agreement consultation will begin soon. We expect it to be open in early March. The consultation will run for six weeks (not including school holidays) to make sure that everyone has a chance to respond. We will continue to consult by listening to comments made via our website, email address and through face to face meetings. This informal consultation is extremely useful and actually has steered the project so far.

The consultation will pose one question: ‘Should the Becket Keys Trust enter into a funding agreement with the Secretary of State for Education?’ It will have various supporting papers including the funding agreement itself, our policies on important issues such as Special Educational Needs Exclusions and Admissions for 2013 and beyond.”

A public commitment to holding the consultation for a fair, defined period is very welcome. However key information is still not available. For example:

  • What form will the consultation take?
  • Will public meetings be offered?
  • How will views be be gathered? Will it be in meetings or via e-mail, letter or similar?
  • Exactly how are the “supporting papers” going to be provided to interested parties?
  • How will the consultation be publicised to maximise participation?
  • Who will carry out the consultation?
  • Will there be any independent scrutiny of the consultation?
  • How will views be represented to the DfE and how can their accuracy be assured?
  • How is the consultation being funded?

Each of these questions should be addressed before the consultation begins. It is also clear, given the fundamental question that the consultation intends to pose, that the consultation should be completed, and the DfE response to it known, before parents are required to make a decision on what offers they should accept for their children for September 2012 entry.

The second statement is intended as an update on progress toward the proposed opening in September. However it also doesn’t provide as many answers as it may first appear.

The full statement is available here:

Questions for the consultation arise from the middle section in particular:

“With regards to the site, the Headteacher Designate, Mr Scott-Evans said “The discussions around the site are continuing with the DfE and Essex County Council (ECC) and the headteacher at Sawyers Hall, Mr Capper has been very generous with his time. The majority of the site will be for Becket Keys and we have secured the areas of the site that we wanted. That includes the main teaching rooms, science block, technology suite, art rooms, drama and dance studio, sports hall. It also includes the fitness studios, the assembly hall, the dining room and the important outside areas: tennis courts, playground, astro turf, sports fields and car park. We are fortunate, because of most of the teaching for our new Year 7 in September 2012 will be carried out in the newest block. The rest of the site will be developed over the subsequent 12 months so that by August 2013, the entire Becket Keys site will be completely refurbished. Effectively we will have 300 students on site in 2013, in a school that will eventually serve 1050. It is an amazing opportunity for those first groups of students.

Becket Keys site will have its own boundaries and the remaining Havering College uses of the site (including the excellent Hair and Beauty College) will have a separate entrance and facilities. Parents that have attended one of our tours will have seen the areas of the site that we will be using in 2012 and will have seen for themselves the excellent facilities there already.”

While understandably attempting to reassure prospective parents, a central theme of Educating Brentwood’s posts over the last week is still not addressed. The statement confirms that talks are still ongoing about use of the site that will not be occupied by Becket Keys or the elements currently used by Havering College.

Only those with full knowledge of the site will be able to judge the actual percentage of the site that Becket Keys intends to use but our initial enquiries suggest that this represents considerably less than the current six blocks. We will seek further clarification on this point and share it when we have it but it is worth remembering that 51% would represent a majority of the site.

Effectively nothing has changed since Educating Brentwood reported the statements from Becket Keys and Essex CC last week. Parents should be provided with full information on site use before being required to accept any offers for September 2012.

Despite considerable amount of information that has not yet been provided, we do at least know that a consultation will be held and what the central question to be answered will be. Our post, “Any Questions”, was used to illustrate where answers are still required before full funding can be approved. We would encourage anyone with further suggestions to add to it. This statement does clearly provoke some new ones regarding funding.

At a time of austerity measures, and when existing local schools have been denied money over recent times to upgrade and maintain their sites, (e.g.BCHS plans for their sports hall), is it the best use of public money to refurbish a site when the statement says there are “excellent facilities there already?”

Brentwood tax payers deserve to know.

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