Two Kent grammar schools are bidding for Selective School Expansion Fund cash to open a 1,050 pupil ‘satellite’ grammar school in Herne Bay or Whitstable. The plans have been criticised by two local head teachers who question Kent County Council’s commissioning plan’s justification of a “need” for local selective places, and claim a new grammar school threatens a local school with closure.

Dr. Nuala Burgess, Chair of Comprehensive Future, said, ‘Some councils appear ideologically driven in their thirst for selective education. It seems morally wrong to prioritise school places for children who pass an 11-plus test, but especially when such a move threatens another school with closure. These two grammar schools should withdraw their applications for the building of a satellite. It’s high time Kent County Council stopped commissioning schools which cater for a minority of pupils and bar entry for all the rest.”

Kent County Council’s school planning relies on a controversial method which prioritises a set number of school places for children who pass the 11-plus. This planning ensures that 30% of school places in any given year are grammar school places. On top of this, the questionable logic of Kent County Council’s commissioning plan has decided a ‘need’ for two ‘satellite’ grammar schools to be located in Herne Bay and between Sevenoaks and Dartford.

Legislation bans the creation of new selective schools. Nonetheless, grammar schools are getting around the law by creating second schools and calling them extensions, or ‘satellites’. If the bid for a Herne Bay ‘satellite’ is successful, it will open at the same time as a new Canterbury secondary school. This will mean a total of 300 new school places in the area. Two local school heads say this is far too many and that the Council’s school planning is flawed. They argue that a selective school simply isn’t needed.

Jon Boyes, the Principal of Herne Bay High said, “If they open the two schools together a school will have to close. It will be catastrophic for other schools in the area. Where will they get the extra 300 students every year to fill these school places? The proposed satellite will be a phenomenal waste of over £20 million of taxpayers’ money. There’s already capacity in the local grammar schools. This move is for political gain – they’re using taxpayers’ money, and it’s wrong.”

Writing for  Kent Online, Ken Moffat, the Head of Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys, also expressed concerns about the Council’s school planning: “My worry is that opening two new schools in such a relatively short space of time will lead to the closure of one of our current providers. We need a joined-up vision for the future of the region that combines house-building with necessary community resourcing. I don’t see that clarity of thinking coming from the Council right now.”

Dr. Nuala Burgess said, “Grammar school heads in selective areas claim that there is a demand for more grammar school places, and that they will fill their classrooms. On closer inspection, it is quite clear that this ‘demand’ is an illusion created by grammar schools themselves: when it is financially expedient, many Kent grammar schools simply allow more pupils to take up places on appeal. Some do not even pass the 11-plus. This is common knowledge amongst parents, but Kent County Council’s school planning takes no account of these strategies.

It can be no coincidence that while grammar schools have been expanding, three Kent secondary schools have closed since 2013. BBC research found the equivalent of 16 new grammar schools have been created since 2010. This is in spite of the 1998 legislation which expressly forbids the building of new selective schools. It would be very interesting to know the impact that each of these new grammar schools has had on pupil numbers in surrounding schools. The increase in Kent grammar school places over the last two years is down to nothing more than grammar schools choosing to admit more pupils. Put simply, grammar schools are empire building. What they are doing is wrong and hugely unfair to non-selective schools in their area.”

“It seems incredible that in 2019 Kent County Council still pays a member of staff whose job is the planning of a segregated school system. More unbelievable still, Kent’s school planning is based on a formula devised in 1944. People would be outraged if it was decided that 75-year old medical knowledge and equipment should be used to treat patients in certain areas but not others. It seems extraordinary that some counties should rely on a completely outdated formula for the education of its children.

“Kent County Council’s prioritising of grammar school “choice” shows a callous lack of concern for the education of the vast majority of children. The creation of a grammar school ‘satellite’ in Herne Bay seriously threatens another school with closure. The emotional and academic impact on the pupils concerned cannot be underestimated.

“There is no evidence at all that selective education produces better results. If you select already high attaining children, you get high attaining results. It’s not rocket science. “

Sign the petition opposing this ‘satellite’ school HERE.