Almost exactly a month after closing what they considered to be a consultation into whether to sign a funding agreement with the Secretary of State for Education, the proposers of Becket Keys Church of England School have finally published their report on the responses that they received. It is not a comprehensive document, but a copy was sent to respondents this morning and is available (in full) on their website here:
As previously reported (“Becket Keys commit to publish consultation results” http://wp.me/p2dr6s-6n), the proposers committed to do this half way through the period that they allocated for this process and on March 20th they stated that “The report published on our website will be the exact version communicated to the DfE”.
If that is the case then, regrettably, it is not an accurate reflection on the responses that they received and, as such, does not provide the Secretary of State with an adequate picture on which to judge whether to commit state funds to the proposed school.
One can easily quibble with the figures and how they are presented in the first place but the Russell Education Trust (RET) are hardly the first party to spin statistics to show a case in its most favourable light. However, I would question whether 139 signatures on one letter from one school should be given unequal weight compared to group and individual responses. Presumably the individual members of the British Humanist Association of Brentwood and Ongar should be counted on that basis too? It would be interesting to know how many of those 139 signatories would have taken the time to respond had they had to do so individually. It should also not be forgotten that the primary purpose of the letter was to complain about the proposed admissions policy.
It is a shame that the responses were not independently verified and presented but, as we have shown in recent posts, this is not a requirement of the Department for Education (DfE) and so we have to trust that they are accurate. Individual reported responses show a 68%/32% split in favour of signing the funding agreement. It would be very odd if a proposal purportedly based on significant parental demand did not receive an overwhelming number of favourable responses to the question posed, but it may not be surprising that responses from the community seem to be low in number given how the consultation was carried out.
This leads me on to my greatest concern about this report. The list of reasons presented as being provided by those against signing the funding agreement is incomplete. This is the full section:
“Reasons and Arguments against signing FA
Those against signing the FA gave the following reasons:
- There are already surplus secondary school places within Brentwood – 14 of the 22 respondents who were opposed to signing the FA made this point.
- Becket Keys will put pressure on the budgets of other local schools.
- There should not be faith schools / Becket Keys as a faith school would discriminate against those of other or no faith.
- A vocational centre is required in Brentwood, not another secondary school.
- Becket Keys on the site of Sawyers Hall will create traffic chaos locally.”
That’s it in it’s entirety. My own response gave three main reasons. Only one is reported here. In addition to my great concern about the effect of a new school in an area of surplus places, I also stated:
“We do not know who will run the school and control state funds and whether they are fit to do so.”
“Brentwood’s residents have not been properly consulted.”
These are not listed in the report.
I am happy to share my entire e-mail to the consultation as evidence that this report does not accurately reflect responses received. It was copied to the DfE, Eric Pickles and the Chelmsford diocese and I will be sending it again to illustrate, once again, the lack of transparency in this process and to check the legality of the report.
While I do not seek to deny that my views are in the minority of those reportedly received, I am very worried that once again the RET have failed to acknowledge legitimate concerns or seek to reassure the community about their suitability to receive state funds. As a taxpayer I would like to know that this view is presented to the Secretary of State before he commits the country to funding them.
Educating Brentwood was copied on several mails to the consultation which also made points that are not covered in the report that the Becket Keys proposers are presenting. If others feel their views have been misrepresented then I would also encourage them to re-send their response to the Secretary of State at the e-mail address below: