The true cost of “demand” over need in Brentwood

Numbers have been released today by the Department for Education (DfE) that confirm for the first time the cost to the taxpayer of the decision to grant a funding agreement to Becket Keys free school.

Figures for 2012/13, collected via the Education Funding Agency (EFA), the part of the DfE responsible for apparently ensuring value for state money, have been published in a spreadsheet today that is available via this link:

It tells us that Becket Keys have been allocated £977,826 of our money to operate this school year. They have stated that they have 123 pupils in their first year.

To put this in perspective, St Martin’s, Brentwood’s largest secondary school will receive £6,841,417 for a roll of 1710 pupils. That works out at almost exactly £4,000 per pupil.

According to these figures, Becket Keys are receiving funding of £7,949.80 per pupil.

The DfE seeks to justify this via the following statement:

“As new institutions, Academies and Free Schools may receive additional financial support during the period whilst they are building up additional year groups. This ‘start up’ funding contributes to the costs of employing key staff, such as the head teacher, and purchasing school resources such as books and educational equipment. This would be the approach taken by the Local Authority if opening a new school.”

But of course the Local Authority wouldn’t be setting up a new school in Brentwood.

They had just closed one.

Because the cost of keeping it open given falling rolls could not be justified.

It is also difficult to see what difference it makes to your staff costs if you are a new school or not. Teachers are paid a salary by whatever school employs them. They don’t get a “signing on” fee.

Now it is reasonable to assume that part of that money would have been used to support the 123 students in existing schools. So lets assume that would have been at the same level as the St Martin’s students. That would account for £492,000.

That means that £485,826 has been allocated specifically to support a project that contradicted the findings in the 2009 Essex CC consultation. That is the cost of meeting the “demand” of a small section of Brentwood’s residents over the agreed identified need for education in our town.

Of course, as reported by the Brentwood Gazette in the summer (“Why the Brentwood Gazette article on the “Russell Education Trust” is important ) a proportion of that money will be going to a private company, the “Russell Education Trust”.

You can decide whether that is a good use of your money.

Particularly when public money is apparently tight.

Stephen Mayo

This revelation is the key to the opposition our group felt when the free school was proposed – we know that this additional half a million is not only spent by the taxpayer on a company outside the county, but there is the other half a million not spent in local schools – each of which has been punished with last-minute reductions in student numbers (thus less funding) which has made their planning and preparation for this year difficult (cutting costs is as almost as hard as starting up).

This impacts directly and negatively on the education of local parent’s children. Local authority planning for the whole town allows these issues to be dealt with fairly and smoothly to all children: on the other hand, the free market is brutal and, now it appears, expensive.

I wish the Becket Keys School well, but their promised outstanding performance is now under an even higher scrutiny by Brentwood citizens than before, in order to justify this expense.

Richard Millwood

We are grateful to Justine Burrows who has further scrutinised the figures in the spreadsheet and produced a more accurate per pupil figure for St Martin’s of £5030. Please see her comment for the explanation.

This means that the equivalent budget for 123 pupils would be £618,690 and the gap would therefore be £359,136.

We are happy to get these figures as accurate as possible. It doesn’t change the central theme of the piece of course.


  1. I’ve just looked at the spread sheet in more detail and it states that “Academies with Sixth Forms also attract 16/19 year old funding from the Department for Education. This information can be accessed in a separate publication.”

    Therefore, we can assume that the stated St Martin’s funding is for years 7-11 only. The 6th Form has capacity to take 436 pupils, years 7-11 admittance was 272 each year (to rise to 280 as of 2013). Therefore 272 x 5 = 1360 – divide this by the £6.8m funding and each pupil receives £5030. Still way short of Becket Keys but a bit better than just £4k!

    Still a scandal though and thoroughly unfair considering there is no need for an additional secondary school in Brentwood.


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