Plans for second satellite grammar move a step closer

Kent council accused of trying to bypass law preventing new grammars, which DfE says there are 'no plans' to change

grammar expansion

Plans for a second satellite grammar school in Kent have cleared another hurdle.

Kent County Council's education committee has recommended approval of plans for building the extension in Sevenoaks, which will be used by Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys, located 13 miles away.

But campaigners have accused the council of “using a loophole” to bypass the law preventing the opening of new grammar schools in order to create “legally dubious new schools”.

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The site is the same one on which a controversial satellite annexe was opened in 2017 for Weald of Kent Grammar, which is about 10 miles away and is a girls' school with a co-educational sixth form.

Dr Nuala Burgess, chair of anti-selection campaign group Comprehensive Future, said the plan was “ridiculous”.

She added: “Comprehensive Future feels the legality of the creation of grammar schools through the back door should be challenged and we are exploring our options. We feel very strongly that it is a criminal waste of precious education funds to build a new selective school.

"All the evidence shows that the vast majority of pupils attain better GCSE results in areas without grammar schools, and far better social cohesion, too.

“Selective schools are using a loophole to create legally dubious new schools. No one will be hoodwinked into believing these two schools are in fact one.”

Kent County Council said the plan was supported by around 89 per cent of local people who took part in a consultation.

Ian Watts, Kent County Council’s Area Education Officer said the recommendation represented “a significant milestone”. He added: “It provides a clear statement of intent that a boys’ grammar provision can be introduced in Sevenoaks for September 2021.

“However, until the planning process is complete and final costs are ascertained, the final decision to open a boys’ grammar provision on the Wildernesse site will not be taken.”

The Department for Education said any grammar schools wishing to expand on to a satellite site must be able to demonstrate that the expansion would not be a new school.

A spokesperson said: "Current legislation prevents new grammar schools from being established and there are no plans to change this."

A final decision about the plan is expected to be made by Kent County Council's portfolio holder for education in around three weeks.

The DfE is expected to make a decision early this year about which of two Kent grammar schools will be allowed to progress with its bid for cash from the Selective Schools Expansion Fund to build another satellite school in between Whitstable and Herne Bay.

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Dave Speck

Dave Speck is a reporter at Tes

Find me on Twitter @Specktator100

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