Population projections published by Kent County Council (“KCC”) show that the population of West Kent is expected to grow rapidly in the near future as new residential housing developments become available, meaning that up to 300 additional grammar school places will be needed in West Kent every year.
In October 2011, KCC published its projections for population growth in each Kent district*. In relation to Sevenoaks district, and the three nearby districts where Sevenoaks district children attend grammar schools (Tonbridge & Malling, Tunbridge Wells and Dartford), KCC predict that by 2018 there will be 1,700** more children aged 10 and 11 years. This means that 850 extra secondary school places will be needed at West Kent schools per academic year by 2018.
Approximately 35%*** of West Kent children pass the 11 plus exam and are therefore entitled to grammar school places. Consequently, by 2018, approximately 300 extra grammar school places will be needed in West Kent to take account of the predicted population growth. 300 extra grammar school places is equivalent to 10 extra classrooms of pupils per academic year; or 70 extra classrooms for all academic years. This is too large an increase for the existing West Kent grammar schools to cater for via expansion at their existing sites.
The only practical solution is for a grammar school to be established on a new site with plenty of space available for expansion. The (shortly to be vacant) Wildernesse school site in Sevenoaks would appear to be the only suitable location large enough to accommodate the extra grammar school places needed to take account of this population growth.
**According to KCC, in 2012, there are a total of 10,500 children aged 10 and 11 in the districts of Sevenoaks, Tonbridge & Malling, Tunbridge Wells and Dartford. In 2018, KCC are predicting that there will be 12,200 children aged 10 and 11 in those districts, an increase of 1,700 children (or 16%).
***In 2010/11, 50% Sevenoaks town children passed the 11 plus exam. For Kent as a whole, the figure was 28%. (There are 10 state primary schools that serve children from Sevenoaks town (Amherst, Weald, Sevenoaks, St Thomas’, Chevening, Otford, Lady Boswell’s, Dunton Green, Seal and St John’s). In 2010/11, these schools had 337 pupils in year 6, and 167 (50%) of these children passed the 11 plus exam).