Why have Becket Keys “retired” their Facebook page today?

Just before noon today (28th August) the Facebook page for the proposed Becket Keys Church of England School was edited (or perhaps we should more properly say censored). The majority of contributor comments were removed and the following statement was posted and also tweeted via the @BecketKeys Twitter account:

“With the school formally open from 1st September we have “retired” our Facebook page as a channel for communication. Thank you to everyone for all your support in getting us here. News and updates about the school will be posted on our website and you can contact us directly by email to office@becketkeys.org

This may not seem particularly significant, existing schools rarely have official Facebook pages, but the timing of this announcement is extraordinary. Yesterday the news broke that the proposed “One In A Million” (OIAM) Free School in Bradford had been refused a Funding Agreement with the Department for Education (DfE) in time for them to open next week. The BBC has reported the situation in the following link.

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-leeds-19396745

In reaction to this story a contributor posted a question on the Becket Keys Facebook page yesterday evening requesting clarification on their progress towards signing their Funding Agreement with the Secretary of State. To our knowledge they were the second person to do so this summer. No updates have been provided during the summer on this matter and, at the time of writing, there is no news on their website. The contributor posted the following link to the story as reported on The Telegraph website to illustrate their point.

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/education/educationnews/9502200/Anger-as-Coalition-halts-free-school-project.html

In common with numerous previous requests for information from those behind Becket Keys, as extensively documented elsewhere on this site, this request was ignored. It may be that in stating that the school will “formally open” on Saturday they are indicating that a Funding Agreement has been signed. But why not say so?

Cllr Ralph Berry, Lead member for Children on Bradford Council, is leading attempts to find places in other schools for those who thought they would be going to OIAM next week. He was on BBC5Live this morning with the Executive Director of the free school, Matthew Band, discussing the ramifications of the DfE’s decision in particular to parents who had invested in uniform etc. in preparation. The full interview, which is approximately 12 minutes long, is available via this link for the next week and starts at 01.06.56:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/iplayer/episode/b01m6c0r/Victoria_Derbyshire_28_08_2012/

As we confirmed via Graham Ranby of Essex CC in our post in April “Parents have a better chance to make an informed choice” (http://wp.me/p2dr6s-7v), the new school is not a legal entity until the Funding Agreement is signed. Mr Band points out (at 01.16.33) that “legally, until we get a Funding Agreement, we can not officially offer or guarantee a place to our students”.

So if this is a national news story and there has been no public confirmation that a Funding Agreement has been signed by Becket Keys aren’t parents entitled to know where they stand? We must still expect that funding will be agreed in time for the 1st but the approach of the free school’s proposers reinforces the concerns raised at the time of their “consultation”. The refusal of those who expect to be granted state money to openly communicate should be a matter of concern for everyone. At this stage, parents and their children should be their priority.

What can the reason possibly be for failing to provide public reassurance on the status of funding to affected parents?

We will do our best to shed light on the situation during the coming days if we are able and will update this post accordingly. Becket Keys can save us all the trouble by publicly stating on what financial basis they expect to be “formally opening” on Saturday.

*UPDATE – 30/08*

In the early evening of 29/08 the following statement was posted to the front page of the Becket Keys Church of England School website:

“Staff are in school now and for the next four days. We’re all very excited about welcoming Becket Keys [sic] founding Year 7 on 5th September. Everyone is busy: staff are preparing their teaching spaces and resources; builders and decorators are finishing work on the Runcie Building and reception; and the governing body meets this evening. Our Funding Agreememnt [sic] is signed and receives the Secretary of State’s seal tomorrow. The past [sic] parent letter before opening will be sent on Friday. We would like to thank the staff at Sawyers Hall and colleagues at Essex County Council and the Depratment [sic] for Education for their support in opening Becket Keys Church of England School.

With every blessing,

Rev. Ian Jorysz
Chair of Governors”

The errors within the text suggest that it has been posted without much care but it does appear to provide the required reassurance to parents intending to send their children to the school next week. The crucial piece of information is that the Secretary of State is expected to sign today. Once this is confirmed the school will become a legal entity and we will post any public confirmation that this is the case for absolute clarity. It would also be helpful to know, either from the DfE or Becket Keys, what the reason has been for this extraordinary delay in making this decision and whether the terms of the Funding Agreement have been affected by it. Freedom of Information requests should enable full transparency on these matters in the near future should the information not be volunteered.

Stephen and Kathryn Mayo

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