Plans to add a primary school to a Brentwood street that already has four in it have been scrapped after Essex County Council (ECC) failed to secure the central funding it needed to progress it.
Following tip-offs from contacts actively involved in education in Brentwood, we broke the news on 15th June that ECC had applied for funds to apparently site a primary free school on the remainder of the former Sawyers Hall College that was not being used by Becket Keys free school and other existing tenants:
“Are there really plans for a FIFTH primary school in Sawyers Hall Lane?” http://wp.me/p2dr6s-fL
Within the week the local press gave extensive coverage to the story with the Brentwood Gazette featuring it as front page lead:
“Local press cover plans for yet another school in Sawyers Hall Lane” http://wp.me/p2dr6s-fS
The plans had been news to County Councillor for the area, Barry Aspinall, who expressed his fury that he had not been consulted before funding had been applied for. Indeed, it appears the plan was signed off by departing ECC member for education Stephen Castle just before the County elections in May.
The haste with which this was apparently submitted may have been betrayed by figures presented to support the case for a new school which we covered on June 29th:
“Essex CC justification for new primary school does not add up” http://wp.me/p2dr6s-fZ
Educating Brentwood has actively monitored the situation over the summer after ECC had confirmed to Mr Aspinall that a decision on funding was expected by the end of July. This week we were advised that this had been unsuccessful. Thanks are due to Brentwood North borough councillors Ross Carter, Philip Mynott and James Sapwell for their assisting in the communication process.
Having been contacted by us for absolute confirmation, an ECC spokesperson said: “Unfortunately Essex County Council’s bid for central government funding, which was intended partly to help introduce a primary school on the former Sawyers Hall College site, was unsuccessful. There is still a need in the Brentwood area for additional provision to meet the future demand for primary school places and the County Council will be engaging with existing schools in the area to consider what options are available to increase provision in the locality.”
An interesting choice of words from ECC as who exactly would have been “helped” to “introduce” the school has not been clear from the outset. As we clarified, any new provision would have to have been in the form of a free school which would have been run by a “sponsor” who ECC advised would then be responding to an invitation for proposals.
The invitation was apparently dependant on central funding being granted although some clearly knew of the possibility before the plan became public as the tweet from Becket Keys head Andy Scott-Evans on the 4th June, reproduced in the Gazette’s coverage testifies.
Whatever discussions went on beforehand, we are now clear that a further primary school will not be established on the former Sawyers Hall College site and that the demographic bubble that will increase primary rolls in three years time will be catered for by our existing schools.
We understand that other educational options for the remainder of the site in Sawyers Hall Lane are under active consideration and we will bring you any news when we receive it.
Stephen and Kathryn Mayo