The Weald of Kent grammar school opened its controversial ‘annexe’ school in Sevenoaks this week. It is currently unlawful to establish entirely new grammar schools, but the Tonbridge selective school is opening a satellite in its neighbouring town, claiming that the two buildings, nine miles apart, will operate as a single school. Girls attending the annexe in Sevenoaks will be educated in the Tonbridge school for one day each fortnight to avoid accusations that this is an unlawful selective school.
Melissa Benn, chair of Comprehensive Future said, “The opening of this annexe shows that the threat of expanding selection still exists. Theresa May failed to get through her policy on new grammar schools, but now we need to watch out for selection spreading by stealth. The Kent annexe could be the first of many such backdoor schemes to expand selective education. The schools concerned will surely be hoping to escape the widespread criticism of selection that has emerged over the past year, even though they are, in effect, flouting the spirit of the law and public opinion.”
Lucy Powell MP will table an Early Day Motion ( on behalf of Comprehensive Future) next week, expressing concern that the Sevenoaks school is, in fact, ‘the first new selective state school to open in Britain for over fifty years’ and not an “annexe” at all. The motion calls on the government ‘to rule out any further extension of selection by stealth.’
Melissa Benn said, “Selection promotes unequal education and reduces opportunity for the majority of children. The legislation we have exists for good reason, because comprehensive education is better, fairer, and more inclusive. The annexe grammar school in Sevenoaks is a backdoor attempt to bypass a fair and sensible law. We hope the government responds to the motion to confirm that there will be no more attempts to expand selection in this dubious way. The only new schools we need are comprehensive schools.”