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Sunday, 11 May 2014 00:00

Sevenoaks Grammar School Annexe (proposed)

KCC has filed a new letter with Sevenoaks District Council, reproduced below, relating to its Planning Application for the Sevenoaks Grammar School Annexe and Trinity Free School. This sets out a refined version of the case for the annexe, including KCC’s continued commitment to find a solution to the problems previously covered here.

Probably the most significant paragraph is the penultimate one, which refers to an invitation to submit further proposals from an interested school. I presume this refers to a local single-sex grammar school, but following previous conclusions it would probably also need to become co-educational......

By contrast, Canterbury parents are complaining that the proposed move by Barton Court Grammar school to Herne Bay would deprive the city of its only co-educational grammar school (article to follow). The wording of this paragraph suggests that KCC may (I have no evidence for this) still be in discussion with Weald of Kent, hopefully making a clearer case of advantage for the current students than they did last time round. 

UPDATE: Subsequently, on May 15th, the Sevenoaks Chronicle picked up the story first made public here. 

The letter reads as follows:

++++++++++++++++++++++++++++

Re: Planning Application KCC/SE/0375/2013 - Wildernesse Site, Sevenoaks

I write to clarify the need for the development which is subject to the above application.

The education argument for providing selective education in the Sevenoaks town area is based on several premises. The 'need' argument is quite unambiguous and described accurately in the proposal documentation. The Kent Commissioning Plan uses a District-wide model to provide consistency with the eleven other districts. It is explained that when considering Secondary provision (both selective and non-selective), it is necessary to look beyond the boundaries of a District and consider an area that encompasses the schools that parents state as a preference. For the students who are resident in the Southern half of Sevenoaks District, this area includes Tonbridge town, Tunbridge Wells town and their environs. This is mainly due to there being no selective schools in Sevenoaks, and up until 2013, no faith-based schools either.

The forecasts for the twelve schools that are the most preferred by the students who are resident in Sevenoaks south, all indicate that there is a steady increase in demand for Year 7 places over the next ten years. KCC has calculated that additional provision will be required.The second issue is the number of students travelling out of Sevenoaks each day for schooling. Representations have been made regarding this planning application citing conflicting figures between the planning statement and Kent commissioning plan. In fact the figures do not conflict, but represent different student groups. This is explained as follows: approx 1,850 students leave Sevenoaks district to travel to Grammar AND non­ selective schools in Tonbridge & Malling and Tunbridge Wells districts. Of these 1,850 students, about 1,150 attend Grammar schools in Tonbridge & Malling and Tunbridge Wells districts. The remaining 700 students attend non-selective (High and Academy) and faith based schools in Tonbridge & Malling and Tunbridge Wells district.

Several of the selective and non-selective secondary schools in Tonbridge ·town and Tunbridge Wells town are offering to increase their capacity. This will address some of the concerns raised by the forecasts until about 2017/18 .  However, such a move only exacerbates the undesirable situation of over 1800 students travelling up to twelve miles to school, and then travelling the same distance home.  Any increase in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells school intakes will therefore increase the amount of pupils travelling out of Sevenoaks district.

Thirdly, Kent County Council must continue to pursue this proposal.  In March 2012, a resolution was passed in full Council, recommending that:

" in response to an ePetition, Kent County Council pursues proposals to provide 2FE of selective secondary provision for boys, 2FE of selective secondary provision for girls and 2FE of mixed non-selective provision for students resident in the Sevenoaks south area, that would meet legal requirements."

The non-selective provision has been accommodated through the Trinity Free School, but the local authority has a policy obligation to investigate every avenue to establishing selective provision in Sevenoaks south.

It is not correct to say that the Secretary of State for Education has blocked proposals for the proposed Grammar school.  The report back from the Secretary of State ruled that while a selective school expanding onto a satellite site would be considered lawful; a change from single sex to co-educational provision at the same time, would not be lawful. Kent County Council has taken advice from both the Department of Education and our own legal department and has recently invited further proposals from an interested school which it is hoped the Department of Education will consider more favourably.

KCC is staying with the original timetable, so it is entirely appropriate to pursue planning permission at this time.

Yours sincerely

Senior Project Manager (Capital Programme Delivery)

Last modified on Sunday, 18 May 2014 20:26

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