Previous consultation experiences of the Russell Education Trust

In reviewing the inadequate “consultation” currently offered by those behind the proposed Becket Keys Church of England School I was interested to see what past experience the private company that are set to form part of their “Academy Trust” had in this area.

The Russell Education Trust (RET) helped to propose and set up the Bristol Free School (BFS) last year so I assumed they must have had to hold a similar exercise before gaining approval for their funding agreement. I have yet to find definitive evidence of what precise form this took but from an article published in the Bristol Evening Press it is clear that it was completed on 4th August 2011. Four weeks before the school opened at what were to be temporary premises.

The article, published two weeks before the consultation was due to end, confirms this date and also reports that what was intended to be temporary was likely to become permanent. The BFS Founding Head Teacher acknowledges this may concern prospective parents of the 150 place school and offers to meet those who may be getting cold feet, but the article states, “About two-thirds of its places are filled and head teacher Richard Clutterbuck said parents were still signing up their children.”

http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/Free-school-remain-ex-government-offices-site/story-12987430-detail/story.html

An article, published in the Times Educational Supplement in the same week, reports that the consultation was seen as inadequate by a group of local head teachers to the extent that legal action was being considered. A considerable trawl of the internet has not provided any evidence that any action was brought however.

http://www.tes.co.uk/teaching-resource/Heads-square-up-to-fight-Britain-s-largest-free-school-6099471/

In mid-January the Bristol Evening Press reported that BFS were consulting once again. This time, specifically regarding the admissions policy, which was to be amended following the decision to remain permanently on the site that had been described as temporary at the proposal stage.

http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/Free-school-wants-students-come-postcode-area/story-14994620-detail/story.html

The consultation finished on 28th February which may explain why Brentwood has had to wait until early March before being engaged. It is not clear from the BFS website how responses were collated in this case but the following statement is provided:

“All parents, parent groups, Bristol schools and academies, other admission authorities, neighbouring local authorities, diocesan boards and other relevant parties are free to view and comment on these consultations.”

In the latest article it is also interesting to note what appears to be a discrepancy between the expectations set by the BFS Head Teacher in August and the reality once his school had opened:

 “The free school filled about 80 of its 150 places in Year 7 for 2011.”

Stephen Mayo

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