Government no is ‘not the end’ for college plans

THE outgoing head teacher of Sawyers Hall College has pledged he will return with a renewed bid for vocational education in Brentwood after his latest plans were rejected by the Government.

Stephen Capper had already suffered disappointment when his first application for a South Essex University Training College (SEUTC) was turned down in October last year in favour of the Becket Keys Free School.

  1. ​right idea: Stephen Capper, outgoing head teacher of Sawyers Hall, says he will renew his bid for vocational training
    right idea: Stephen Capper, outgoing head teacher of Sawyers Hall, says he will renew his bid for vocational training

The college for 14 to 19-year-olds, which would have specialised in international business, financial services and construction, was being planned to go on one third of the site of Sawyers Hall College, which closes at the end of this academic term.

Mr Capper said: “I have had quite a few people coming to me feeling quite cross that our bid was not chosen.

“They are asking ‘why can’t the Government see that this is needed in Brentwood’.

“There is no question that this is a great loss to Brentwood. “Brentwood has lost out again.

“We know that there is a need for this type of education in the town.”

Mr Capper said the decision would mean that education in the area would continue to be wholly focused on academia.

“Brentwood is oversubscribed with academic schools,” he said. “Children who are not academic are losing out.

“If there is no provision for vocational education they don’t do it or they have to travel 10 or 15 miles to do it somewhere else.

“Despite the disappointment, we were told that our application was very good, it was very clear, and we were very enthusiastic.

“But the Department for Education (DfE) felt they were more minded to go for technical and engineering proposals coming from our competitors.”

The decision leaves uncertainty over the Sawyers Hall College site.

Two thirds of the site have already been earmarked for Becket Keys, which is set to open in September.

The remaining third, which would have been used by the UTC, will now remain vacant until Essex County Council decides what to do.

Mr Capper added: “The DfE itself is not saying ours is a hopeless idea, don’t come back.

“They are saying go away and maybe do it differently.

“We now need some time to establish what we need to do next.

“We are still looking at Brentwood but possibly not Sawyers Hall College.

“It is impossible to say which premises – it depends what’s available.

“Obviously if the Government comes back quite quickly then that’s one thing but if it takes another year then that’s something completely different.

“What we know is the idea is right and we will find a premises.”

SEUTC partners include the University of Essex, Havering College, Prospects Learning Foundation and several significant employers in the business, financial and construction sectors, including International Financial Data Services, Cofunds, Countryside Properties and Bank of New York Mellon.

The UTC has received support from the former Secretary of State Lord Baker, the founder of the Baker Dearing Trust, a body set up to promote the establishment of University Technical Colleges, and Louise McKinlay, leader of Brentwood Borough Council.

Mrs McKinlay said: “I supported the head teacher of Sawyers Hall College in his bid to create a University Technical College on this site as I firmly believe that there is a lack of vocational training in the area.

“I am disappointed that this bid was not successful.”

An Essex County Council spokesman said: “The expectation is that the site currently held by the governing body will revert to the county council when the Sawyers Hall College closes.

“If agreed, the county council is likely to lease parts of the site to the new Becket Keys Free School and will be defining potential options for its own use.”

Paul Champion

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Twitter: @blogapprentice
Skype: paulchampion31

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