The decision announced last week to reject the proposal of the South Essex University Technical College (SEUTC) to use part of the Sawyers Hall College (SHC) site meant that the future use of the location is still unknown to Brentwood residents. Most of the local community will not be aware of the amount of the town’s residents and those from further afield who currently use the site and how much of the shared facilities are currently co-ordinated by senior SHC staff and governors.
Essex County Council confirmed to us and to the Brentwood Gazette that site ownership would revert to them from the SHC governors in September 2012 and it was their intention to lease parts to those remaining on site and new users from that point. They also confirmed that this was still under review and that the requirements of the proposed Becket Keys Church of England School were still being negotiated with the relevant part of the Department for Education (DfE).
Reports of which parts of the site will be used by the free school have varied over time, this has included claims of up to “two thirds of the site” and specific parts had been specified by the proposers in the past. The latest position reported on the updated Becket Keys website is not very helpful however. Restricted to three sentences the statement tells us “major refurbishment work on the building will be undertaken over the next year”.
Whether this means to say buildings rather than building is unclear, however it is fair to assume that the continuing negotiations will go some way to clarify this picture.
Study of the site as it currently is may also explain why this negotiation appears to be taking so long. Site users currently share several facilities, there are multiple residents and many activities out of school hours.
In an attempt to illustrate this complicated picture we present the following site map and a brief summary of current and most recent use as we understand it:
1. Margaret Hutton Building: French, Spanish, English, Maths, Media, Administration, Finance and Reception. Senior staff offices are in the bottom floor of this building and site reception.
2. Headley Water Building: Personalised learning, ICT, Business Studies. This building currently houses The Ark Childrens Centre (SureStart), Extended Services and the Brentwood Schools Christian Worker Trust (BSCWT).
3. James Redell Building: Science, Technology, ICT. This is where the Main Hall is and, in the part nearest Block 4, the kitchens and canteen facilities. These are shared by all accredited site users and visitors currently.
4. Jack Petchey Building:RE, History, Geography, Gym, Library, Sixth Form.This is the original school building which also contains meeting rooms and the site office. Part of the building is also used by Prospects College. Havering College have refurbished part of the block (where the red A is on the map) and this is where The Lanes Hair and Beauty Salon operates. Boilers that serve various parts of the site are contained in this block too.
5. Charles Darwin Building: A construction and woodwork facility for Prospects College.
6. Neville A Brown Centre for Excellence in the Expressive Arts: Art, Drama, PE, Music, Photography.
7. Old 6th Form Common Room. Now used by a company providing party services.
8. Prospects College Construction Building. We believe this was used for bricklaying and construction training but are not certain about current use.
9. Sports Hall. PE. This is used by multiple users currently when not used by SHC pupils.
10. Faces Kids Club. Breakfast and after school club.
11. School shop. Uniform and school equipment sold from this separate building.
The northern area of the site also contains what used to be playing fields but now contains old tennis courts and is otherwise fallow. To the north of the site parking area is the Astroturf site. This is owned by the Sawyers Hall Community Sports Trust and administered by SHC. The Trust will not cease to exist when the school closes and Brentwood Hockey Club are one of its primary users.
As things stand the picture is a complex one. Prospects College, Havering College, The Ark, Faces, Extended Services and BSCWT may all expect to continue on site, some may have signed contracts to this effect. We also understand that, under the agreement that was struck following the Essex CC consultation into the closure of SHC, Shenfield High School may have the right to some site use too. It is unclear if any of them is engaged in negotiations with Essex CC or the DfE.
Because the site is currently managed on a whole site basis, facilities are shared, most notably catering. This may be enshrined in agreements with some of the parties listed above. Access and parking also affect all users, the car parks to the north of the site are used by all and also serve the astroturf.
It is to be hoped that the future shape of the use of what is currently a widely used community asset is being agreed with due consideration to all affected parties.
We would be very interested in the views of all affected by these decisons and would be grateful for any information that can clarify the position for local residents.
Stephen Mayo (with help from Richard Millwood)