There has been considerable press coverage, following the claim in the Sunday Times that there will be a new school on the Sevenoaks annexe site for boys.
It is of course not that simple. Quite simply, there are no regulations at present in place to allow any such development, not even a boys’ annexe.
Paul Carter, Leader of KCC, who has driven the project from its beginning and now appears to have his vision fully vindicated, appears quite clear that buildings will be constructed over and above those for the girls' annexe. There is a fall-back position in that it is reported that if no school or annexe is allowed, alternative short term use is being planned.
It has been clear for years that Mrs May, even as Home Secretary was in favour of expansion of grammar schools, possibly by creation of annexes, as I wrote in November 2014. Her current ideas are clearly proving very controversial, and I see no point in adding to the debate.
However, as I also wrote in May 2015 after the General Election, about a possible boys’ annexe in Sevenoaks to balance the one being built for the girls of Weald of Kent Grammar: “the pressure to sort this one could become irresistible!” It is starting to look that way.......
The anti-grammar school campaign, Comprehensive Future has made clear today it is abandoning its attempt to launch a High Court Injunction to halt the proposed Sevenoaks Annex to Weald of Kent Grammar School, so building can now commence.
Cranbrook School, Kent’s only remaining 13-18 grammar school has been trying to come up with a proposal to change to 11-18 for at least three years, against fierce opposition from many parents of children attending local private schools, but has now put forward a compromise that will take seven further years to implement fully.
Highsted Grammar School has put forward a proposal for consultation to set an additional alternative Test for admission for girls, in line with grammar schools in Dover, Gravesham (girls) and Shepway.
Kent County Council has set up a Select Committee of Councillors to explore opportunities for wider access to grammar schools for disadvantaged pupils.
Barton Court Grammar School, having failed in its attempt to expand and move to Herne Bay, has now seen planning permission approved for a major expansion on its current site, which will allow an increased intake.
I also look at staying on rates for grammar school Sixth Forms which reveal a remarkable range of results, ranging from Dartford Grammar that has 73% more students in Year 12 than Year 11, to Folkestone School for Girls with 35% fewer.
|Most recent Update: 5th November 2015|
The proposed Sevenoaks Annex to Weald of Kent Grammar School has today received government approval to go ahead, creating what is almost certainly the largest grammar school in the country with an annual intake of up to 265 girls. Below I give some excerpts from Mrs Morgan's statement of Parliament, making clear the government view that this does not break the law prohibiting the creation of new grammar schools but is, in accordance with government policy, simply the expansion of a good school with integration between the two sites which is allowable. In no way is it a green light for other grammar school developments that fail to fit with such criteria.
The path to approval has been a long, controversial and difficult one since the original proposal four years ago, including rejections of two previous schemes on grounds of illegality and one vote by Weald of Kent parents against the girls’ school becoming mixed to facilitate approval. You can trace back the history of the proposal from previous articles on this website, the most recent being here.
The delays mean the school will not now open until September 2017 (not confirmed yet and there may well be legal challenges to the decision causing further delays), by which time there will be intense pressure on existing grammar school places in West Kent for both girls and boys. Building plans for the new premises have been approved; and builders appointed, just waiting for final approval to begin work.
In the meantime to respond to the pressure on places, the school has increased its intake from 145 to 175 in the past few years, taking in a massive 211 girls in September 2014, presumably on the expectation of the Annex arriving by 2016......
The Daily Mail has published an article claiming that the proposed Sevenoaks Annex is being blocked because of legal issues.
The article asserts that the legal problems are such that, even if the Secretary of State were to approve the scheme, it would be overturned by a legal challenge in the courts. Fear of a Judicial Review was likely to put a stop to the proposal going ahead.
The current scheme is the fourth to be proposed since the satellite grammar school was first proposed three and a half years ago, planning permission for the new annex has been granted, and builders are waiting to move in. Meanwhile on the same site, the new buildings for the Trinity Free School are already in progress.
The article gives no clue as to what the legal obstacles might be and, whilst they were evident in each of the three previous schemes, it is harder to see what is now suggested to be blocking the proposal.
Whatever, we are left wondering if this is just another of the myriad of rumours that have swirled around this project from the start, as confirmed by any internet search for "Sevenoaks Annex". In particular (updating five days after the original Daily Mail article) it is curious that no other media outlet has picked up the story, or is it just they have been burned before....
Update(20 May) – please read main article below first: BBC SE broadcast an item on 18th May about correspondence they had obtained by FOI, between Kent County Council and Government. This explains the delay in approving the building works for the new Trinity Free School on the old Wildernesse site in Sevenoaks. The problem is that the project is linked to the proposed Weald of Kent Grammar School annex on the same site and government has delayed a decision on approving the annex for over six months, as explained below. This item continues in the main body of this article, also below. In any case, with Trinity School about to grow by another 90 students in September, it appears that there is now approval for temporary accommodation to be erected on the site so the whole school can move there for the new academic year.
The proposed Weald of Kent Grammar School annex in Sevenoaks to cater for local girls surely came closer to approval with the Conservative victory in the election last week. Not being a lawyer, I could not see what was wrong with the most recent proposal currently with the government, as it avoided the fatal flaws in two earlier proposals described in previous articles on this website. Nonetheless, government sat on the proposal without making a decision for six months before the election, presumably because of its contentious nature. Certainly, the political ramifications of approving a new annex are enormous, not just in Kent but also likely to spread to other parts of the country, with the Home Secretary having already advocated a satellite grammar school in Maidenhead back in November, as explained in my most recent article.
As I see them, the subsequent issues for Sevenoaks and other parts of the country are as follows:
The Judd School in Tonbridge has published its proposed admission arrangements for 2016 entry, containing three important decisions by Governors that will have a considerable impact not only on the school itself, but also on grammar school admissions across the area.
You will find the details here. The proposals are:
1) To increase the intake by 30 places to 155, consolidating the temporary increases of the past two years, and also presumably for 2015 entry. This has been done at the request of KCC, which will then provide substantial capital investment to support the expansion.
2)To ensure the increase caters for the current pressure on places from Kent boys, by creating two separate catchments one primarily from West Kent admitting 140 boys, the second from the remainder of the United Kingdom, admitting 15 boys. The academic criterion in each case would be high scorers in the Kent Test. The proposal includes a clear map of West Kent showing the division.
3)As I prophesied some time ago, The Judd is proposing to abandon its plans to set its own test, the new Kent Test meeting the criteria it lay down.
My own view is that I am delighted with all three proposals. They serve both the needs of the grammar school population of West Kent and, by keeping the testing procedures in line with the rest of Kent, slow down any further splintering of the Kent Test, making life much easier for children looking to apply for several Kent grammar schools. May I encourage parents to support all three.
I consider the proposals in more detail below………
UPDATE: The proposal by Weald of Kent Grammar School is now being considered by the Department for Education.
There could soon be movement in the stalled proposal for a satellite grammar school in Sevenoaks, after the Home Secretary, Mrs Teresa May has come out in support of a similar proposal in her own parliamentary constituency of Maidenhead, as explained below.
Planning permission for the Sevenoaks satellite grammar school has now been passed, building contractors are in place, and an application to go ahead has been put to the Department for Education. Meanwhile, a separate plan for buildings on the same site for the Trinity Free School has also been approved and this project appears to be ready to go.
Two previous proposals for the Sevenoaks grammar development have been rejected by Mr Gove, when he was Secretary of State for Education, both on the grounds that they did not comply with current government legislation that required the satellite to have the same gender make up and admission rules as the host school. I have written about these previously.
A new proposal was put forward in September by the Governors of Weald of Kent Grammar School, to run a three form Satellite in the new premises for girls only, which would apparently overcome the previous legal hurdles but doesn't meet the pressing need for additional places for boys.
Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge, which admits girls up to GCSE level and is then mixed in the Sixth Form, is now attempting a third attempt with KCC support to open up the proposed grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks. The proposal is now out for consultation with parents.
The proposal shows a change of direction from previous attempts, in that the school is now looking at a three form entry girls’ only annexe up to GCSE level and then mixed in the sixth form, opening in 2016.
Building Plans for the annexe have now been approved, builders have been appointed, but at present there is no approved scheme and so building on the site is in abeyance.
My own view is that Weald Of Kent parents may well support this scheme for, as distinct from the previous proposal, there appears no disadvantage for current students and positive advantages for future students living towards Sevenoaks. There appear to be none of the previous problems with legality, and although the school is likely to make minor changes to its oversubscription criteria, there would be ample space for all qualified applicants for many years.
I have written a number of previous articles on the proposed annexe, which you can follow back from here, or else by searching for ‘Sevenoaks’ or ‘annexe’ in the search facility of this website ........
Governors of Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury, have decided the school should remain in the city, rather than pursue the proposed move to Herne Bay which would also have enabled the school to be enlarged.
The proposal, outlined in previous articles on this website, split parents with many living in the city fiercely opposed to a move to the North Coast. In the other camp, many parents and especially prospective parents living on the North Kent coast around Herne Bay and Whitstable welcomed the proposal for a brand new local school building, with excellent facilities in an area where it was becoming increasingly difficult to access a grammar school place because of rising numbers in Canterbury and along the coast.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the county in Sevenoaks, the county's second proposal to enlarge a grammar school in new premises continues on the tortuous path it has now followed for three years. Planning permission for the proposed annexe and the new Trinity Free School has been approved without difficulty, but there is still no sign of a clear and legal agreement about which school or schools are to run the annexe......
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......