A difficult decision for Michael Gove?
Campaigners in Sevenoaks are expecting a decision soon about the two bids from two Kent grammar schools to open an annex to a their schools in Sevenoaks. This is following a petition to Kent County Council from parents concerned about their children travelling some distance to grammar schools outside Sevenoaks. It is understandable that Sevenoaks parents do not want their children travelling long distances to schools. In radio interviews parents mention stress for children. Of course ending selection at 11 would go a long way to reducing stress!
Michael Gove is waiting for a report from the Education Funding Agency. Last week a newspaper report indicated that the DfE consider the issue is legally complex. This is hardly surprising. Letters from the DfE to Comprehensive Future set out the situation.
In June Comprehensive Future asked the DfE –
- Can you confirm it is not possible to establish a new selective school because of the provisions of the Education and Inspection Act 2006 and the SSFA 1998? Can you also confirm that this also applies to academies and free schools? Is this because of the provisions of the Academies Act 2010?
- The proposal refers to the establishment of a ‘satellite provision’ and also that creating an ‘annex’ from a host school is a viable option under the current legislation. Can you provide us with a legal definition of a satellite and an annex? Can you inform us the basis on which a school is considered to be an annex or satellite of an existing school rather than a free standing school?
- Can you inform us whether an annex of an existing school has to have the same admissions criteria as the school of which it forms an annex or satellite?
In July the DFE replied –
- I can confirm that there is no definition of satellite provision or annex within Education legislation. I can also confirm that the School Standards and Framework Act 1998 and the Education and Inspections Act 2006 prohibit the establishment of new selective maintained schools. It is also clear from the Academies Act 2010 that the Secretary of State may not enter into academy arrangements that have the effect of establishing a new selective Academy school.
- As such the powers to expand an existing selective school may not be exercised if the consequence of so doing so is in effect to establish a new selective school. Whether what is being proposed is an expansion or is in effect the establishment of a new school will depend on the individual circumstances of each case.
- Admission arrangements, including the oversubscription criteria, are set at school level. Therefore, we would expect admission arrangements to be the same for the whole school including any annex or satellite site.