A long school year is over and children and school staff are starting their well earned break. In six weeks time they will return to a new school landscape in Brentwood but, extraordinarily, uncertainty continues as to what that will look like.
Brentwood County High School will have a new Headteacher, Mr Stephen Drew, Shenfield High School will be embarking on their first full school year as an Academy and the proposed Becket Keys Church of England should be opening its doors on part of the Sawyers Hall College site. We still don’t know who will occupy the rest of it.
The “free school” has conducted an induction day, it has uniform for sale but it still doesn’t seem to have signed a funding agreement. As we have previously reported, “Parents have a better chance to make an informed choice” http://wp.me/p2dr6s-7v , until this is signed the school is not a “legal entity” according to Essex County Council and, as such, confirmed numbers of those attending cannot be finalised. This is not only important for the new school, it also affects existing ones as they cannot be sure what their budget will be for the new term.
This scenario is covered today in the Sunderland Echo regarding the case of Grindon Hall Christian School, an existing private school that is converting to become a state funded “free school” in September. In this case, in contrast to Becket Keys, the school is oversubscribed but is not in a position to confirm who will be going there in September until their funding agreement is agreed.
This delay is intriguing as the funding of free schools has come under a great deal of scrutiny nationally in the last few weeks. The case of the “Beccles 37” is probably the most well known example. Here, despite considerable opposition and a consultation report that confirmed that the majority of respondents were against the school, a funding agreement has been signed with the private “sponsors” the Seckford Foundation. However, it has subsequently transpired that only 37 children have applied to fill the 162 places on offer for September.
The National Union of Teachers (NUT) has also questioned the use of state money to support the free school programme following last week’s announcement on the proposed next wave. They also continue to campaign for the public release of impact assessments, that should legally be used to judge the effect of setting up a free school on existing schools in an area before granting funds.
We reported on our concerns over the Becket Keys “consultation report” in our recent post “Two pages: how taxpayers money is being awarded to Becket Keys” http://wp.me/p2dr6s-9y and the response we received from Rt.Hon. Eric Pickles MP suggested that the matter was still under consideration.
Despite still not having signed a funding agreement to this point, the Russell Education Trust (RET) continue their PR drive on the Becket Keys website. Oddly they have published the dates for “Open mornings” and “Open evenings” in the Autumn and yet require those wishing to attend to fill out a form citing “high demand” as the reason. In common with their overall approach to this point, they seem to have misunderstood the meaning of “Open”. Many hundreds of children and parents attended the Open days provided by existing Secondaries last year, we don’t recall any of them requiring notice when we attended. Perhaps the RET should concentrate on getting their publically funded school open before they start trying to control who can visit it.
Stephen and Kathryn Mayo