Church of England free school approved for Brentwood

Essex’s first free school will open in Brentwood next year after Education Secretary Michael Gove approved the plans yesterday (Monday).

Becket Keys, a Church of England school, will open on the former Sawyers Hall College Site, Sawyers Hall Lane in September 2012.

Rival bids – including one to turn the site into a University Techinical College (UTC) offering vocational training - have not been approved.

Free schools are state-funded schools, set up by individuals or groups, which are not subject to local authority control.

Becket Keys was proposed by St Thomas of Canterbury Primary School headteacher Andy Scott-Evans and St Peter’s Primary School Iain Gunn.

Mr Scott-Evans said: “This is a fantastic day for the parents and children of Brentwood. We look forward to the Becket Keys being a high performing school that commands the trust of parents and the enthusiasm of young people.”

The Rt Rev Stephen Cottrell, the Bishop of Chelmsford, said: “This is good news for the families whose children already attend CofE primary schools in the area. It will also be good news for all of Brentwood.”

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Education Secretary Michael Gove hailed those who are planning free schools and UTCs as “pioneers” and said they were “leading a revolution in the education system.”

He added: “These new schools allow talented and experienced people to be imaginative and bold in creating great new schools. They will offer more choice to parents in the type of education their child receives, and will raise standards in many communities where the need is great.”

Sawyers Hall College’s current headteacher Stephen Capper was behind a bid to turn the site into a UTC.

He said: “The free school bid has found favour in the current political climate. We’re obviously disappointed by that, and it’s a bit back to square one with another school in Brentwood and no vocational training.”

Mr Capper also said that his group will continue in their attempts to set up a UTC in South Essex.

He added: “We wish the free school every success in their venture.”

Becket Keys will be a mixed school, for 11 to 18-year-olds, and will take 150 students.