Becket Keys consultation needs to engage the whole of Brentwood

Since raising our concerns regarding the “consultation” exercise that the proposers of the Becket Keys Church of England School are currently offering, we have been contacted by correspondents concerned about the lack of opportunity to discuss the potential effect the school would have on existing provision in Brentwood. Some see this as a key consideration in assessing whether the Secretary of State for Education should enter into a funding agreement with the “Academy Trust” that would run the school.

The Academies Act 2010 confirms that this is an element that is considered prior to approval being given. Section 9 states:

“(1)This section applies when the Secretary of State is deciding whether to enter into Academy arrangements in relation to an additional school.

(2)The Secretary of State must take into account what the impact of establishing the additional school would be likely to be on maintained schools, Academies and institutions within the further education sector in the area in which the additional school is (or is proposed to be) situated.”

The significance of this is currently being shown in Beccles, Suffolk where the local Conservative MP has taken part in the consultation and concluded in a letter made available to interested parties:

“In my opinion, taking into account the provisions of the Academies Act 2010, the Free School would have a significant negative impact on the existing educational institutions in the Waveney area”

Peter Aldous MP has decided to oppose the proposed funding agreement in the case of Beccles on this and other criteria. A link below is provided via the local blogger, James Hargrave:

http://wikisuffolk.org.uk/peter-aldous-letter-to-lord-hill-re-beccles-f

But is Brentwood in any position to make any such informed assessment as things stand?

The announcement last week that the school’s proposers would be accepting all children who wished to take up their offer of a place raised further concerns in this area as the potential number of students entering the school in September could be as high as 176. As previously stated on this blog, the initial number per year group presented when expressions of interest were collected was to be 120.

Demand for the school was presented to the Department for Education (DfE) on that basis but appears to have been amended to 150, with a change in proposed feeder schools, by the time the proposers were interviewed by DfE assessors. By raising the number still further it would appear that the effect on other secondary schools could be greater.

It would appear obvious that, by taking the revenue per head of child away from existing schools, the impact will be significant. However, this is an assumption based on numbers alone. We do not currently know if this is the view of other secondary schools or the parents who send their children to them at present.

Additionally, by changing the choice of schools on offer and, potentially, the admissions criteria for each there could also be an effect on Brentwood’s primary schools.

An understanding from the parents, children, staff and governors of all schools in the area is surely essential if the Secretary of State is to properly judge the potential effect of a new school as set out in Section 9. Therefore the Becket Keys consultation should be providing the means to canvass the opinions of all those who can inform this view.

In its present form it is not.

It is my view that the Becket Keys proposers are also missing a great opportunity to reassure the town that the impact of a new school will be positive. What better way to demonstrate the stated wish on their website “to be part of the family of schools in Brentwood” than to properly engage with all interested parties at this stage?

I encourage the Becket Keys proposers to reassess their consultation urgently in line with our advice published earlier this week and reflected on the front page of this week’s Brentwood Weekly News. A meaningful consultation with maximum participation can only be of benefit to all parties in establishing a new educational landscape in the town.

Stephen Mayo

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Comments

  1. Well said. I cannot understand why the Becket Keys proposers are so reluctant to engage with the community they wish to be a part of? It’s very odd. Instead, all we get is relentless propaganda via the Twitter feed, in a North Korean ‘Let us unite behind our outstanding Headteacher!’ style.

    In light of the current lack of meaningful consultation, it would be useful if you could write a piece offering advice as to any way local residents can make their views known, apart from the Becket Keys email address. (I fear any email I send might ‘accidentally’ hit the spam filter.) Should we contact Essex County Council, or Eric Pickles? Is it possible to let the DfE know of our dissatisfaction with the Becket Keys consultation?

    Reply
    • Thanks for the suggestion, it certainly will be something we will look at. We have written to Becket Keys with our suggestions to maximise participation in a meaningful consultation. We hope they heed this very soon.

      We have not yet had a response and if this continues to be the case we will have to bring this to the attention of the wider public and, ultimately, the DfE. There are examples elsewhere of challenges to funding agreements on the basis of unsatisfactory consultations. We may have to investigate this further as this is currently clearly the case here at present.

      We will keep you posted!

      Reply

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