Grammar school expansion has been dropped, but could new selective schools still open?
Comprehensive Future believes that new selective schools can all too easily bypass the law by building ‘annexe’ grammar schools in neighbouring towns.
The annexe to the Weald of Kent grammar school opens in Sevenoaks this September. The only difference between this and a stand alone grammar school is that Sevenoaks pupils must spend one day a week each fortnight visiting the original school in Tonbridge. The original plan, submitted in 2015, proposed pupils shuttle back and forth between the two sites on a weekly basis, but this has been abandoned due to the practical problems of a school extension that is 10 miles from the main building.
Melissa Benn of Comprehensive Future says, “We are thrilled that the plan to expand selective schools has been dropped. This scheme was widely criticised by head teachers, teaching unions, and academic experts, and most parents and teachers are relieved this will not happen. However, we worry that annexe grammar school expansions will permit a slow but steady expansion of selection by other means. We know many schools have already explored using this shady route to avoid the law.”
A Freedom of Information request submitted by Comprehensive Future revealed that 17 grammar schools had approached the Department of Education about expanding their schools. Annexe grammar schools have already been proposed in Croydon, Maidenhead, and Herne Bay in Kent.
Melissa Benn said, “Any comprehensive area bordering a selective one is still under threat from this form of expansion. Parents may unwittingly find themselves with an 11-plus school system. The government cannot legislate to create new grammar schools, but we would like to see this loophole closed so that grammar schools cannot be built by legally dubious means.”
According to a Parliamentary Question in October 2016 seventeen grammar schools have approached the DfE to enquire about expanding.
A FOI revealed that these enquiries were from:
Wilmington Grammar School for Girls
Sir Henry Floyd Grammar School
Sutton Coldfield Grammar School for Girls
The Tiffin Girls’ School
Invicta Grammar School
Weald of Kent Grammar School
Westcliff High School for Girls
The Blue Coat School
The North Halifax Grammar School
Altrincham Grammar School for Boys
Heckmondwike Grammar School
Lancaster Girls’ Grammar School
Colchester Royal Grammar School
Tonbridge Grammar School