Two Kent grammar schools are going head-to-head with bids for Department for Education funding to open a satellite grammar school.
Barton Court Grammar School, in Canterbury, and Queen Elizabeth's Grammar School, in Faversham, have this week launched consultations on their bids to lead the project to build the school, as outlined in Kent County Council’s Commissioning Plan, to meet an anticipated rise in student numbers.
However, anti-selection campaign group Comprehensive Future says the site is more than 10 miles away from each of the schools, and therefore the project would amount to a new grammar school being created, which would be a breach of the law preventing the building of new grammar schools.
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Dr Nuala Burgess, chair of Comprehensive Future, said: “It’s a shocking use of education funding to try to bypass the law and build a new grammar school via the backdoor.
“There is no democratic mandate for the creation of new selective schools. If this goes ahead, there’s nothing to stop the DfE from building dozens of dubious 'annexe' grammar schools all around the country, all without parliamentary scrutiny, and all in breach of the law.”
Both schools are submitting bids for cash from the DfE's Selective School Expansion Fund to open the 1,050 pupil school. Bidding opened last month for the second wave of cash from the £200 million pot for grammar schools that can demonstrate "ambitious and realistic" plans to boost the number of disadvantaged pupils accessing the schools.
However, Comprehensive Future says Barton Court and Queen Elizabeth's currently admit 9.7 per cent and 6 per cent of disadvantaged pupils (respectively) when the average proportion of disadvantaged pupils in Kent is 24.2 per cent.
As reported in Tes, a freedom of information request by Comprehensive Future at the start of last year revealed that three grammar schools in Kent had enquired about building "annexe" schools in the last 12 months, however the DfE refused to name the schools.
In December last year education secretary Damian Hinds awarded 16 grammar schools cash to expand as part of the first wave of money from the expansion fund, yet Tes revealed only a quarter say they will increase their proportion of disadvantaged pupils above the national average next year.
Meanwhile, research published earlier this year by HEPI (Higher Education Policy Institute) found that grammar schools are revolutionary for disadvantaged pupils.
Headteacher of Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar, David Anderson, said: “Promoting social mobility is not a new concept for this school. We were the first selective school in Kent to prioritise free school meal applicants within the admissions oversubscription criteria.
“We also have a good track record with first generation university applications and have secured Oxbridge places for Pupil Premium students.
“We’ve put together a comprehensive access plan to develop this work further (indeed this is one of the criteria for the bid) and we are hoping to achieve a pupil premium rate of between 16 and 20 per cent as a result of this.”
Barton Court has also been contacted for comment.