In an historic decision, Kent County Council (“KCC”) has overwhelmingly approved the establishment of new grammar school places in Sevenoaks.
KCC’s approval came at the end of a full council debate on 29th March on the Sevenoaks Grammar School Campaign’s e-petition. After hearing the case for a Sevenoaks Grammar School presented by campaigner, Andrew Shilling, a vote proposing the establishment of new grammar school places in Sevenoaks was called by two Sevenoaks councillors, and was then passed by a vote of the full council, with 66 councillors voting in favour, 3 against, and 1 abstention.
When presenting the case to KCC for a Sevenoaks Grammar School, Andrew Shilling said:-
Sevenoaks is the only major town within the Kent grammar school system that is without a grammar school. Sevenoaks children who pass the 11 plus test are increasingly being denied places at West Kent grammar schools because they live outside of the ever shrinking catchment areas.
Earlier this month around 100 upset and confused West Kent children (mostly from Sevenoaks) passed the 11 plus test but were not offered West Kent grammar school places, because these schools were already full. Even Sevenoaks children who scored as high as 99% of the full mark on the 11 plus test were not offered grammar school places.
These children are distraught. They think they have failed, but this is not true. They studied hard; they succeeded; but they were let down by the system.
Tragically, this situation will soon get much worse because the population of West Kent is growing rapidly. Indeed, many primary schools in West Kent are already opening extra classrooms to cater for this population surge, and this surge will hit the secondary schools in a few years’ time. This will make grammar school places even harder to come by, and deny even more children the education they deserve.
A community grammar school is what the people of Sevenoaks want. 2,620 local people have signed our petition calling for a grammar school in Sevenoaks.
It is a local solution to a local issue. It is what parents want. It is the right thing for Sevenoaks. It is the right thing for Kent.
In response to the Sevenoaks Grammar School Campaign’s e-petition, KCC said:-
There is a case for more selective and non-selective secondary provision in Sevenoaks South. Data shows that over the next seven years (2011-2018), the Sevenoaks South Year 7 student population will increase from 495 to 681.
The recommendation is that in response to an e-Petition, Kent County Council pursues proposals to provide two forms of entry (“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.
This additional selective provision could be located on a single satellite site in southern Sevenoaks. Each annexe would retain its own school’s individuality. Any proposal for additional selective provision in Sevenoaks is dependent on consultation with schools and the agreement of selective schools to expand, within the legal framework that exists for such expansion.
Reacting to KCC’s decision to approve new grammar school places in Sevenoaks, campaigner Sarah Shilling said:-
This is great news for the children of Sevenoaks as they may finally get the local grammar school places that they so desperately need and deserve.
On behalf of all 2,620 of our supporters and the community of Sevenoaks, I would like to wholeheartedly thank KCC and, in particular, Councillor Mike Whiting for listening to the concerns of Sevenoaks parents, and for then acting.
I would also like to thank our 2,620 supporters. Without the overwhelming support of our community, we would not have been able to mount such an effective, lightening campaign over just three months.
Due to unfortunate legal constraints, KCC has not given Sevenoaks parents exactly what they want, which is a wholly new grammar school in Sevenoaks. Instead, KCC has authorised the next best option by permitting existing grammar schools in nearby towns to open up new classrooms in Sevenoaks, to cater for the Sevenoaks children who would otherwise have attended those schools, thus saving them from two hour round trips every day.
These additional grammar school places are needed now, and so I very much hope that KCC will move as quickly as possible by entering into funding agreements with nearby grammar schools so that they can expand into Sevenoaks. The empty, KCC-owned, Wildernesse school site in Sevenoaks appears to be the ideal location for the new grammar school places.
Sevenoaks parents are desperate for these new grammar school places to be established in their town. 2,620 local people signed our e-petition calling for a Sevenoaks Grammar School. This is a local solution to a local issue.