Tuesday, 5 October 2010


I went to Drapers' Academy on Monday evening to sign the contract  relating to the new buildings for Drapers' Academy and also to be present at the second open evening for the Academy for those wanting to come to enter for September 2011 - more of this in a moment.

Although the actual contracts had been signed last week this was the symbolic conclusion of a complex process that had, as they say, 'gone to the wire.'  The contract is quite complicated in that London Borough of Havering, using a Partnerships for Schools  framework, contract with Kier to build the new academy and once completed it is handed over to us.

Unfortunately the five week delay in July/August (see a number of previous tense blogs about this period) made for a very tight timetable.  Especially as the framework agreement under which we are procuring the academy has been replaced with a different arrangement.  Our framework agreement expired on 30 September so if we had not signed the contract by then it would have been back to start the whole process over again.  Nothing like a bit of presure to raise the tension.

Inevitably there were the last minute hitches as documents had to go through a four way shuttle in various permutations between Partnerships for Schools, Kier, London Borough of Havering and ourselves.  Patrick Thompson at Havering's legal department and Stephen Beeson, Director of Finance Drapers' Academy, both did a really great job to ensure that the machinery was unjammed on the number of occasions when yet another last-minute difficulty had arisen.  At 4.30pm on 30 September, with only seven and a half hours to go, everything was in order and the new-build is now a certainty.  Work begins in earnest on site after half term.

Handing over the pen to Professor Mike Watkinson.  From the left: Professor Mike Watkinson, myself, the Mayor of Havering
Photograph by David Tomlinson

All dressed up with a contract to sign.  Professor Mike Watkinson, myself and the Mayor of Havering taking turns to sign the ceremonial new-build contract.
Photograph by David Tomlinson

At the beginning of the Open Evening we held a small ceremony where the Mayor of Havering, Councillor Pamela Light, Professor Mike Watkinson - incidentally congratulations on his academic elevation of three days ago - one of the Queen Mary governors and myself signed a contract before a large crowd of Harold Hill residents.  As can be seen from the photographs we decided this auspicious occasion was one for full ceremonial dress.  Andrew Ireland, Director of Children's Services Havering, and David Tomlinson, Director Future Schools, Havering who have both done so much to support the project were also present.

Matthew Slater, the Principal, then moved on to the main purpose of the evening which was to present the Academy.  This was primarily for children, and their families, who are thinking of entering next September, but it was clear that the evening had attracted wider interest.  Matthew gave a robust and powerful talk about the Academy vision and two Year 10s (14-15 year olds) gave very positive and confident responses to his questions about such diverse issues as teaching methods, discipline and uniform.  A large number of staff had come in to demonstrate various subjects and the kitchens were open to demonstrate the revised menu.  The prefects also did a great job as guides.

It was a big change from last year.  At that time we had no Principal, or any other staff, no deal signed to establish the Academy and no absolute certainty of new buildings.  What a difference a year makes!

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