Preparing to respond to the Becket Keys consultation

The period that the proposers of Becket Keys Church of England School have provided for consultation on their proposed funding agreement and admissions policy closes at 6pm on Friday 20th April. We have been preparing a response as individuals and will be submitting one as a group too.

In assessing our concerns and reviewing developments since the Educating Brentwood blog site was created, we thought it might be useful ahead of the Open Meeting tomorrow evening to state the areas on which we are personally planning to respond. We hope to be further informed by those attending on April 18th at 7:45pm in the library at Sawyers Hall College.

Becket Keys are inviting responses on the following questions:

Q1. Should Becket Keys enter in a Funding Agreement with the Secretary of State?

Q2. Please give reasons.

Surplus secondary places in Brentwood and the effect on other schools.

It is recognised that there are currently surplus secondary school places in Brentwood, this is why the decision was taken to close Sawyers Hall College (SHC). When the decision was taken to close SHC there was unanimity in the education community and the Local Authority that a vocational option should be provided on the site. Becket Keys does not fit this requirement. It also restores the surplus places problem and potentially deprives neighbouring schools of resources to the tune of approximately £4000 per pupil. Under Section 9 of the 2010 Academies Act the effect on current provision must be assessed as part of this exercise.

Becket Keys consultation needs to engage the whole of Brentwood

Admission numbers for 2012 show that Becket Keys must consult existing schools

Becket Keys used to illustrate concerns over need for free schools in national press

We do not know who will run the school and control state funds and whether they are fit to do so.

Despite repeatedly asking for information from the Russell Education Trust (RET) they have refused to provide anything that is not on their website or that of their “sponsor” Education London. There is no company information on either site. There are no referenced examples of their experience in education prior to opening Bristol Free School in September 2011.

Representatives of the RET, a private company, will form the “Academy trust” if the funding agreement is given the go ahead which means they will control state funds allocated to the school. One of the primary school heads fronting the proposal has also been appointed as its “founding head teacher” having apparently been involved in shortlisting initial candidates for the role of “well qualified secondary school leader”. This raises concerns for us about the apparent lack of transparency thus far and the possible motivation of its proposers. Open consultation would have provided the opportunity to allay our fears in this respect.

Previous consultation experiences of the Russell Education Trust

The search for information on Becket Keys backers

Brentwood’s residents have not been properly consulted.

In February Educating Brentwood called for a public consultation after noting other free school proposers hoping to open schools in September 2012 were holding consultation exercises into their funding agreement. We quickly discovered that this was a statutory requirement. Having then discovered that the RET didn’t hold a consultation until two months before the opening of the Bristol Free School we publically pressed for this to happen in time for parents to be fully appraised before making decisions about what school to send their Year 6 children to in September.

Unfortunately the consultation did not begin until March 7th, six days after “National Offers Day”. Having pledged to run it for eight weeks the actual period was six including the two weeks of the Easter holidays. Critically, the information provided upon which to answer the questions set gave little specific detail about the governance, sources of funding , SEN policy or referenced experience of those seeking to control state funds.

As interested and concerned residents of Brentwood we sought to clarify information that we believed was missing in order to inform our response to the consultation questions. Becket Keys, and the RET in particular have refused to answer them since March 30th.

Becket Keys – A consultation should be more than just a mailbox

Becket Keys “consultation” – Is Brentwood being short-changed?

Becket Keys explain why they won’t change their consultation

When can we expect answers Becket Keys?

Becket Keys will not be answering questions from Educating Brentwood

We are also invited to respond to the following questions regarding admissions policy:

Q3. Should Becket Keys adopt the proposed 2013 Admissions Policy without any further changes?

Q4. Please give reasons

Q5. I would like to suggest the following change(s) to the proposed 2013 Admissions Policy.

The Schools Admissions Code states that changes in Admissions Policy must be consulted on for a minimum of eight weeks and be completed by March 1st. There is also concern that the Becket Keys policy is over complicated and possibly designed, as described in a recent Brentwood Gazette article, to allow for “creaming off the best pupils”. Church primary schools currently have the lowest numbers of children on free school meals in the borough.

The same article reported a complaint to the national schools adjudicator from executive director of the Association of Secondary Headteachers in Essex (ASHE) which concluded thus, “In summary, I believe the admission arrangements for Becket Keys are overcomplicated, lacking transparency and would not be easily understood by parents. Therefore the admission policy is in contravention of the admission code.”

How inclusive are Brentwood’s schools?

Are Becket Keys compliant with the Schools Admissions Code?

Gazette reports on Becket Keys suspected non-compliance with admissions code

Shouldn’t Becket Keys be extending their consultation by two weeks?

Stephen and Kathryn Mayo

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