We were very pleased that so many people attended our Open Meeting last week. It proved to us that there is real interest and commitment to the future of education in Brentwood and that this encapsulates a broad range of views. Parents, interested residents and an impressive representation of local Councillors of all main parties attended and contributed.
We were also delighted to welcome the head teachers of Brentwood Ursuline Convent High School, Shenfield High School and Holly Trees Primary school as well as recently retired Brentwood County High School head, Carol Mason. Boards of governors were well represented and we were very fortunate to have Stephen Capper on our panel whose perspective as an existing head teacher with responsibility for closure of his school and as a leading member of the proposed South Essex University Technical College was invaluable.
Graham Ranby, Essex County Council’s Lead Strategic Commissioner for Planning & Provision also agreed to sit on the panel. Graham was able to provide considerable clarification on the actual situation regarding admissions for September 2012 as well as the situation with admissions policies and how the school’s adjudicator operates. His contribution and openness to question was a considerable asset to the meeting and we thank him publically for that.
For me, the greatest revelation was that, contrary to what has been reported and what we had previously been told, the Local Authority (LA) has in fact advised all those parents holding two offers of places for September entry to continue to hold them until the proposed Becket Keys Church of England Church School receives final approval. Mr Ranby even reported that his department had contacted “three or four” parents who had given up places at existing schools to advise them that, as Becket Keys did not yet exist, they should retain their other offer.
While this position does not help existing schools to plan for next year it does allay fears that parents will not have a fuller picture about the future landscape of education in Brentwood before committing their children to a school.
The day after our meeting Brentwood County High School announced that their new head teacher in September would be Mr Stephen Drew who is currently Deputy Head of Passmores School, Harlow. Mr Drew is a high profile choice having featured in the Channel 4 documentary “Educating Essex” and, as a former pupil of the school myself, an admirer of the programme and his approach within it, a welcome one. It is also a timely choice as it allows parents to make a choice for their children with clear knowledge of who is going to be in charge of the school for the foreseeable future and what their approach will be.
The Brentwood Gazette has covered the appointment here:
The Brentwood Weekly News has also reported it and a link will be posted when it is available.
The full Gazette article, in the second link, touches on the current uncertain situation within the town and Mr Drew’s reaction is an interesting one:
“It is likely that there is an impact to be had. No one is attempting to deny that that impact is going to occur. But as the landscape changes, it may well be that those schools which are being seen as being impacted are the schools that have a more positive outcome.”
The approach of the new head teacher of Shenfield High School, Carole Herman, is also one that seeks to sustain and enhance the school well into the future. The school became an Academy on 1st February and has begun a re-launch in conjunction with its 50th anniversary. This was reflected in a recent article in the Brentwood Gazette
Part of the new strategy is the introduction of a Year 7 Discovery programme that is designed to introduce the school to new students and their parents in advance of joining the school. The strategy is outlined in the attached leaflet:
It is to be welcomed that local schools are providing the opportunity to make a better informed choice for prospective parents and that the LA has ensured that they still can. I would encourage them to use this time wisely.