In advance of the crucial 29th March Kent County Council (“KCC”) debate on establishing a new grammar school, the Sevenoaks Grammar School Campaign submitted its 500 word written case to KCC. This is reproduced below:-
Petition For A Sevenoaks Grammar School
We, the undersigned (2,620 people), petition the Council to establish a grammar school in Sevenoaks.
Sevenoaks does not have a grammar school at present. Instead, every day, 1,150 Sevenoaks children travel to grammar schools in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells, a round trip of up to 25 miles. Many of these children spend up to two hours commuting each day from a young age. This has a negative effect on their learning, on their opportunities for hobbies and sport, on their opportunities to develop friendships, and on the time they spend with their families.
The law was recently changed to enable grammar schools to expand and to establish new sites in nearby towns. We, the undersigned, therefore urge the Council to take advantage of the new law by establishing a grammar school in Sevenoaks, to provide a local grammar education for local boys and girls.
The school age population in Sevenoaks is growing rapidly: at Sevenoaks state primary schools there are currently 530 children in year 6 (11 year olds), and 724 children in reception year (5 year olds) – a 37% increase. The same situation is occurring across West Kent.
The Council’s population projections (published in October) predict that by 2018 there will be 1,100 more children aged 10 and 11 in West Kent (Sevenoaks, Tonbridge & Malling and Tunbridge Wells districts). This means that 550 extra secondary school places will be needed at West Kent schools per academic year by 2018. Consequently, around 150-200 extra grammar school places per academic year will be needed in West Kent by 2018. This is too large an increase for the existing West Kent grammar schools to accommodate via expansion at their existing sites.
Even this number of increased places will be insufficient to meet demand. This is because in this year’s allocation of secondary school places, around 100 West Kent children (mostly from Sevenoaks) passed the 11+ but were not offered West Kent grammar school places. This provided a frightening glimpse of the near future when all Sevenoaks children will be outside the catchment areas of the Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells grammar schools, meaning that super-selective grammar schools will be their only option. Our children will then be directly competing for grammar school places with children from London, Surrey and Sussex – with the very highest scorers gaining the coveted places, and everyone else losing out.
Our 2,620 supporters believe that the solution is for the Council to establish a Sevenoaks grammar school that operates a catchment area-based admissions policy, and not super-selection. The (shortly to be vacant) Wildernesse site in Sevenoaks appears to be the only suitable location large enough to accommodate the required extra grammar school places.
A Sevenoaks grammar school would ensure that all Sevenoaks and West Kent children who pass the 11+ test would receive the grammar school places they deserve, and not just the very highest scorers from across South-East England. We therefore petition the Council to support this proposal.