Seckford Exit Strategy for Beccles Free School after only 37 children confirmed?

Last night in Lowestoft Town Hall Graham Watson the Director of the Seckford Foundation came before Waveney District Council’s Scrutiny Committee. My Live Blog covers what was said in a bit more detail.

It was a bit like watching the Murdochs before the Select Committee and Watson seemed to adopt the same “plausible deniability” strategy claiming to be unable to answer almost all of the difficult questions asked.
  • He didn’t know how much it was costing to convert Carlton Coalville Primary School because the DfE dealt with that but it was just new toilets and “knocking a few walls down”.
  • He didn’t know how many teachers they had appointed despite the fact that down the road in Beccles 14 of them were being paraded in front of a parents meeting literally as he spoke.
  • The Finances of the Seckford Foundation were “complicated” and they had made a “book loss”. Woodbridge School was “thriving" (despite the “complicated” accounts revealing that numbers had dropped year on year and staff were made redundant to balance the books).
  • He did not have the impact assessment on other schools because the DfE did that.
  • He did however confirm the earlier news that only 37 children had accepted places at the school. 37 across Years 7, 8 and 9
  • When questioned on the “inducements” he claimed the free uniforms, iPod and lunches were not inducements as you did not get them before agreement to send your children there. This definition of inducement seems to be unique to Seckford.
After Watson left (he had apparently a prior engagement and left before the meeting ended) members of the Committee were all thoroughly unimpressed. Half thought Watson did not know how brief well enough and half that he wasn’t being entirely straight with them.

The manner of Watson’s departure says it all though. Leaving by a back exit to the Town Hall he was whisked into a waiting Mercedes that then sped off.

Tony Goldson square
Cllr Goldson
Clearly he had his exit strategy worked out. Cllr Goldson, Tory Councillor for Halesworth had his own exit strategy for Seckfrord. Speaking passionately about the need to keep the North Suffolk Skills Centre and support local schools he suggested to Watson they they bus the 37 to the new Saxmundham Free School which would help make that more viable.

They could even try again for a free school once the Middle School site was free in 2014.

Wise words from Goldson who later said free schools did not work in rural areas and that Seckford were clearly in this to make money.

Watson should take his advice. A High School with 37 children is not viable and the whole project is going to collapse at some point. After betting the Seckford farm on the project  the next thing Watson would be planning is his own exit strategy. Out of the Seckford Foundation.
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