GOVERNMENT funding was finally agreed for Brentwood’s first free school just days before it opened.

The Department for Education signed off the money to Becket Keys Church of England School on August 31, only five days before lessons started today (September 5).

It means the school, which is on the old Sawyers Hall College site, in Sawyers Hall Lane, will be funded annually by the Government.

Sealing the funding ended a long drama which had seen questions raised over whether the free school would be ready in time for pupils.

About 123 Year 7 students have now commenced their lessons at the school, which is the largest secondary free school in England.

Richard Elms, the project manager for the school, said Government funding was the most important aspect of opening, but the commitment from staff has been key as well.

Mr Elms said: “Getting the funding agreement is crucial, as it is basically a formal contract between the school and Department for Education. “It says the department will provide money to run the site.

“Even before the funding was secured, the amount of work which has been put in by staff, and all the others who have worked hard to get the school open, has shown the real commitment to set up Becket Keys.

“Now everyone is focused on teaching the bright-eyed pupils who will make up our first classes.”

Speaking on their opening day, headteacher Andy Scott-Evans spoke of his pride to see the school finally open.

He said: “I feel very proud of Becket Keys’ founding students and I know they will be a credit to this new school and our community.

“I will be working with students, parents, staff and governors to establish a school with the highest academic standards and a strong Christian ethos.”

Becket Keys is one of 55 new free schools which have opened in the past week.