Legal Battle Lines Drawn In Site Row

Posted on Mar 19, 2013
Legal Battle Lines Drawn In Site Row

Kent County Council (“KCC”) has issued its response to the Government’s attempt to confiscate the proposed site of the popular new Sevenoaks satellite grammar school in favour of the Christian Free School. The Government’s secret plan was revealed in a leaked letter dated 4th March from Education Minister, Lord Nash, to Patrick Leeson, KCC Director of Education.

KCC’s Statement

In response, Mike Whiting, KCC Education Chief, made the following statement at the KCC Education Cabinet Committee on 19th March:

“I wish to say a few words about the Sevenoaks grammar provision.

“Members may have seen in the recent press that Lord Nash has written to KCC casting doubt on the Wildernesse site as a location for the new grammar provision. Patrick Leeson (KCC Director of Education) has written a very clear response to Lord Nash explaining that this Council will strongly oppose any attempt by the Department for Education to improperly or irrationally move the land from KCC’s ownership, given that it is required currently by the Knole Academy, and in future by the grammar provision after the Knole Academy moves out in 2015.

“As members will remember, the Council’s decision to pursue proposals for grammar school provision in Sevenoaks arose as a result of a very well supported public petition expressing a clear request for the council to explore selective education in Sevenoaks. Officers and I will work tirelessly to see that democratically supported request come to fruition, and I hope to update members in the near future with further details.

“2,500 signatures in favour of the Sevenoaks grammar provision is quite democratically powerful. It is far more than voted to keep the Falkland Islands as part of the UK, and the Government is taking that very seriously. I would urge them to take this petition very seriously too. And far more voted for the grammar school provision than voted for the Free School in Sevenoaks. There is a democratic mandate in Sevenoaks for what we are doing, and we will pursue this with all the vigour I mentioned earlier.

“It is unfortunate that the letter from Lord Nash to Patrick Leeson was leaked, and that the press had hold of it pretty much before we did. It would have been nice, perhaps, to have been able to offer to the Opposition Leaders some inkling of what was going on, had we perhaps known a little bit earlier.”

KCC’s Written Response

Patrick Leeson’s written response to Lord Nash dated 15th March:

- Hits back at claims that the Wildernesse site is the ideal location for the Christian School;

- Points out that KCC’s decision to establish a grammar school in Sevenoaks arose from a well-supported petition;

- Points out that Christian School is the much less popular option;

- Asks the Government for evidence that alternative locations have been sought for the Christian School;

- Claims that the Government’s attempt to acquire the Wildernesse site is “improper”;

- Adds there is another, suitable site for the Christian School, which he offers to discuss; and

- Vows to oppose any attempt to locate the Christian School on the Wildernesse site.

The Petitions

The Sevenoaks Grammar School Campaign e-petition gathered over 2,600 signatures in three months. The Christian Free School e-petition gathered over 800 signatures in six months.

The grammar school petition was more than three times more popular, and was gathered in only half the time, demonstrating that the people of Sevenoaks have a very strong preference for the grammar school over the Christian School.