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Friday, 07 March 2014 00:00

Sevenoaks Grammar School Annex: proposal to become an integral part of Weald of Kent Grammar School

Weald of Kent Grammar School is consulting with parents about taking over the proposed Sevenoaks Grammar School annex and running it as an integral part of the school. I understand that Consultation papers are being sent out to parents this evening, and will expand and update this article when I have seen them.

However, my view is that this is the first feasible proposal to come forward and stands every chance of meeting the legal obstacles raised over the previous proposals by Weald and Invicta Grammar School. I have written several previous articles on the project and its history. 

The proposal is for Weald to become co-educational and then operate the Sevenoaks annex (hopefully renamed) as an integral part of a twin site grammar school, benefitting from the additional excellent facilities planned for the new buildings. It will have a single set of admissions criteria. The school is already planning to change its oversubscription criteria for 2015 admission in line with this proposal.....

to give an equal weighting for Tonbridge and Sevenoaks  children, as distinct from the current criteria which give first priority to Tonbridge, then second to Sevenoaks. The only further change necessary would be to change from admitting girls only to taking in girls and boys. The school is already co-educational in the sixth form. 

What parents wouldn't be able to specify is which site their children will go to if the school decides to have eleven year olds on both, but logically this would be done on a geographical basis resulting in shorter journeys for many. I suspect that current girls at Weald will not see too much change during their time at the school, for I can’t now see this going through before 2016, which will disappoint many.

As the whole school would be co-educational there would be no specific allocation for girls or boys, so the proportions would change from year to year. 

The first time the idea for this proposal surfaced in public was back in December, was from Mr David Bower, Chairman of Governors of Weald, in a Radio Kent interview, so a lot of work has been done in the interim, including a Planning Application for the grammar school and Trinity Free School on the old Wilderness site.   Kent Messenger has also published an online article on the proposal. Mr Bowers makes clear that this is not a done deal and that the consultation is important, although I believe that the pressures are almost irresistible, with Mr Gove being in the invidious position of having vetoed a plan strongly backed by Tory KCC and the local Conservative M.P. 

My own view is that whilst there is no shortage of places for girls in West Kent at present, there is a pressing need for boy’s places and, for 2014 entry at present and before appeals and waiting lists, some boys from Sevenoaks south of the A25 have not been offered a grammar school place, even though both Judd and Skinners have taken on an additional class each. I personally doubt there will be sufficient additional take up to fill the six forms planned for the new annex in 2016, but rolls are rising for the future, and there are plenty of children in neighbouring districts in the Weald of Kent, North Sevenoaks and other parts of NW Kent who currently have problems accessing grammar school places who will now look this way. My only reservation is that Wilmington Grammar school for Boys is proposing a new priority area taking in parts of North Sevenoaks, and with Cranbrook school planning to change its admission age from 13 to 11 in 2016, which would claw back some children who otherwise travel into West Kent, six forms may be over-provision for Kent children. In such a case, there would be an inward flow from Sussex and Surrey children to take up the slack in Kent grammar schools, and the politics gets very complex!

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 September 2015 21:58

2 comments

  • Comment Link Thursday, 13 March 2014 17:34 posted by Heather Crews

    Unfortunately I disagree with Peter's comments. I think the vast majority of parents who live in or near Sevenoaks who have a son who does not score highly enough to gain a super selective place but has been deemed suitable for a grammar school education would decide to send their son to a grammar school in Sevenoaks rather than in Tunbridge Wells. If you lived in Sevenoaks, Otford, Seal etc why would you choose to send your 11 year old son all the way down to Tunbridge Wells with the lengthy journey that entails when they could just go to school locally. As I understand it you will apply to Weald of Kent grammar school and they will determine which site you are allocated a place at. I am sure that allocation system will be logical so that the majority of children living in Sevenoaks would be allocated a place at the Sevenoaks site but even if a few cannot be accomodated at the Sevenoaks site Tonbridge is still closer than Tunbridge Wells.

    Similarly if you are a parent of a boy in Tonbridge who does not score enough to gain a super selective school surely you would rather your son went to school at the Weald of Kent Grammar School Tonbridge site rather than travel down to Tunbridge Wells.

    I think between the boys in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge there will be more than enough boys to fill up half the spaces at Weald of Kent Grammar School.

    As for the girls according to the Sevenoaks Grammar school campaign's website last academic year of the 1126 pupils at Weald of Kent Grammar School 680 were from Sevenoaks. Over the 7 years that equates to an average of almost 100 per school year so the girls of Sevenoaks are highly likely to be able to fill 90 places at the Sevenoaks site and more if they qualify on the admission criteria. Indeed there is likely to be an immediate shortage with some girls living in Sevenoaks being allocated a space at the Tonbridge site or worse not getting a place.

    I agree that in the first few years there may well be spare capacity but I think that is more likely to come at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys which the girls will not be able to access. The obvious solution and the way to make the additional 180 grammar school places that an annexe would create be allocated to both boys and girls would be to also make Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys co- educational. Then both boys and girls would have equal access to 180 places at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys, Weald of Kent Grammar School Tonbridge site and Weald of Kent Grammar School Sevenoaks site.
    PETER: Clearly an issue on which there are many opinions!

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 12 March 2014 20:56 posted by Heather Crews

    I fully support creating additional grammar school places. My biggest concern however is that under the current proposal ie to make Weald of Kent Grammar School co-educational in both Tonbridge and Sevenoaks, even if the satellite school is given the go ahead, all of the additional 180 grammar school places created would go to boys and none to girls. There is a shortage of grammar school places for boys and girls and that shortage will increase with increased population density but the shortage of places for girls will not be addressed at all.

    The boys will still have spaces at Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys (“TWGSB”), The Skinners School and The Judd School. In addition in an average year you would expect them to have half the places at Weald of Kent Tonbridge and half of the places at Weald of Kent Sevenoaks so the boys would gain 90 places at Weald of Kent Tonbridge and 90 Places at Weald of Kent Sevenoaks making an additional 180 places available to them. In an average year the girls would expect to lose half the places at Weald of Kent Tonbridge and gain half the places at Weald of Kent Sevenoaks so the girls would lose 90 places at Weald of Kent Tonbridge and gain 90 places at Weald of Kent Sevenoaks ie the girls would have no additional grammar school places whatsoever. How can you justify a system that will give 180 extra grammar school places to the boys and none to the girls?

    I accept that at present the situation for boys is worse but the situation for girls is not that far behind. In previous years girls living in Dunton Green, Otford and Chipstead etc have found themselves not being offered a grammar school place on national offer day. In the last two years ( for children commencing September 2013 and September 2014) the situation has been alleviated somewhat as Tonbridge Grammar School has offered an additional 30 places and I believe in at least one if not two of those two years Weald of Kent Grammar School also offered an additional 30 places. These schools were asked to do this just for two years as it was hoped that the Sevenoaks annexe would open in September 2015 and the schools were just asked to offer the additional places up until that time. If as originally planned Tonbridge Grammar School just revert to their original planned admission number of 150 then not only will the girls see no additional places at the combined sites of the Weald of Kent Grammar School but they will also lose the additional places they have had for the last two years.

    As population density increases with each year it will become harder for girls living in West Kent to secure a grammar school place. A solution needs to be found that allows any additional grammar school places that are created to be split between the girls and the boys and not all allocated to the boys. PETER: There would be no allocation to boys or girls. This would be a co-educational school and children would be offered places on a geographical basis not on gender. The 180 additional places would initially be ample for both boys and girls. There has been no problem on places for girls over at least the last two years since Weald PERMANENTLY expanded its intake to 175. So no problems in Dunton Green, Otford or Chipstead, although I suspect that any surplus will be taken up by out of county children in the first instance until the extra 180 places are all absorbed with local population growth.

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