Back in April ambitious grammar schools sent in bids to claim a share of this year’s £50 million Selective School Expansion Fund (SSEF). We know two schools in Kent applied to build a ‘satellite’ school, nine or ten miles from their main school building. There is a law forbidding the creation of new selective schools, but the Weald of Kent Grammar School in the town of Tonbridge (and also in the town of Sevenoaks) proved that the government is prepared to let schools dodge inconvenient rules if a Tory council says it needs a new selective school.
There was a campaign over many years to build the Sevenoaks ‘satellite’ grammar school, but a pro-selection government has cash at the ready and has made it easy for the next school that wants to do this. There is even a ‘satellite please’ checkbox on the application form.
We have been keeping an eye on the process for this new school, and it feels quite wrong that local people were given just four weeks to consider whether they wanted a grammar school in their town. Two local heads were highly critical of Kent County Council’s school place planning, even claiming the new school would force the closure of a non-selective school. The Regional Schools Commissioner was asked to intervene to check the council’s numbers, while CF’s Data Scientist pointed out that 39% of local children were attending grammar school, despite the council’s stated aim that the selection proportion should be 25%. It looks like there is a surplus of grammar places, and quite likely Kent County Council are opportunistically claiming a school building fund with their name on it. After all their patch holds nearly 20% of the remaining selective schools.
There seems to be limited local support for this project as the consultation responses show.
Queen Elizabeth Grammar School, Faversham
64 consultation responses. 43 in favour, 21 against.
20 people attended public meetings. 3 people attended the Faversham meeting, 17 attended the Whitstable meeting.
Barton Court Grammar School, Canterbury
81 consultation responses, 52 in favour and 29 against.
20-30 people attended a public meeting in Canterbury.
These consultations did show a positive slant to local opinion, but the numbers are small and it is worth noting that the consultations were mostly promoted to parents at the two grammar schools. There was also a petition against the plans, signed by more than 300 people, with 110 of these from responses from locals with the CT postcode.
The successful SSEF bids are expected to be announced this month or next, and it would seem ludicrous if a new selective school was built with just 52 local people supporting the idea! This grammar school fund was set up under Theresa May’s government, and with an election predicted we can only hope that a new government will not only cancel this awful grammar school fund, but also support fully comprehensive education.
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