The six week consultation period as to whether Becket Keys Church of England Free School Trust should sign a Funding Agreement (FA) with the Secretary of State, to run Becket Keys ended on the 20th April 2012. Besides consulting on whether to sign the FA, the Trust also asked respondents to comment on its proposed Admissions Policy.
There were 212 responses in total, consisting of:-
- 4 on behalf of organisations, Essex County Council (ECC), St Mary’s Church of England Primary School, the Association of Secondary Headteachers in Essex and the Essex Humanists Association. ECC and the ASHE did not comment on the FA; they each described themselves as ‘neutral’ on the establishment of the school. Both commented on the Admissions policy and these responses have not been included in the calculation of percentages. We are making a separate response about Admissions to these two organisations, although we briefly comment about Admissions Consultation as a result of these two submissions and those of parents from Shenfield St Mary’s.
- 139 parents of children at Shenfield St Mary’s signed a letter from the governing body of that school which
- (a) Agreed with signing the Funding Agreement
- (b) Gave strong reasons for supporting Church of England schools in general and Becket Keys in particular
- (c) Argued for a change in the future admissions policy to make Shenfield St Mary a feeder school for Becket Keys.
- 69 were from individuals; this included several local primary headteachers, responding on a personal level. A number were from couples responding individually; these have been counted as two responses. There were several responses from individuals that were submitted twice, and these have only been counted once.
Summary of responses
188 (89.5%) were in favour and 22 (10.5%) against the Trust entering into a FA with the Secretary of State.
Reasons and Arguments in favour of signing FA
Many respondents mentioned a range of reasons as to why the trust should enter into Funding Agreement with the Secretary of State to establish Becket Keys, including:-
- The strong Christian ethos behind the proposed school
- The school’s emphasis on high academic standards
- It will be a Church of England school and CoE schools have a deserved reputation for being inclusive
- It will fully utilise a valuable community asset, of an existing school building and facilities, making best use of taxpayers’ money
- Becket Keys is a unique opportunity to create an inclusive, high performing school, quickly and cost effectively
- Although there are a number of outstanding CoE primary schools in Brentwood, there is no CoE secondary school, let alone an outstanding secondary school.
Reasons and Arguments against signing FA
Those against signing the FA gave the following reasons:
- There are already surplus secondary school places within Brentwood � 14 of the 22 respondents who were opposed to signing the FA made this point.
- Becket Keys will put pressure on the budgets of other local schools.
- There should not be faith schools / Becket Keys as a faith school would discriminate against those of other or no faith.
- A vocational centre is required in Brentwood, not another secondary school.
- Becket Keys on the site of Sawyers Hall will create traffic chaos locally.
A number of helpful comments were made about Admissions.
- The 139 parents who signed the letter from the Shenfield St Mary’s governors were in favour of the Trust entering a Funding Agreement, but wanted changes in the Admissions policy because their school was not a designated feeder school for Becket Keys. They put forward a strong case, citing the distance between the schools, transport links and suggesting that the Becket Keys Admissions policy and oversubscription criteria if unchanged, will make it difficult for Shenfield St Mary’s pupils to gain places at Becket Keys because St Mary’s is not a currently a listed feeder school. It was also strongly argued that not including Shenfield St Mary’s as a feeder primary school could eventually have a negative impact on admissions to St Mary’s, as parents may in future favour those primaries which feed Becket Keys.
- In addition, other comments about the Admissions policy argued:
- The policy is too complex to administer and for parents to understand.
- The policy should give 50% places on faith and the remaining 50% should be allocated purely on distance, from the school, rather than by feeder school.
- The whole basis of Becket Keys Admission policy favours certain children on Faith grounds.
1. Funding Agreement
With responses being almost 9:1 in favour of signing, the Trust has no hesitation in stating that it will sign the FA between itself and the Secretary of State to run Becket Keys School.
The Trust is grateful for the detailed responses made about Admissions, particularly concerning the position of Shenfield St Mary’s and issues around complexity. We have discussed and agreed some amendments to the Admissions Policy with the DfE which will apply to applicants for places in September 2013. Parents of the first Year 7 should note that this will not affect their places, which are secure.
A number of respondents have confused this consultation with the process an existing school has to follow if it wishes to change its Admissions Policy (which is a statutory process that has to take place within a defined period of time, including a minimum of 8 weeks consultation). The Trust has been advised by the DfE that this statutory process DOES NOT apply to the setting up of a new Free School and that it may consult on its Admissions Policy in the early stages of the proposal and if it wishes, as part of its FA consultation, as we have done. In future years, Becket Keys will have to follow the statutory process if it wishes to change its Admissions Policy.