Resurrected Sevenoaks Grammar Plans Seek Government Approval

Posted on Nov 10, 2014
Resurrected Sevenoaks Grammar Plans Seek Government Approval

Weald Of Kent Grammar School of Tonbridge has submitted revised plans to Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, for a grammar school annexe for girls in Sevenoaks.

Planning permission for the grammar annexe building in Sevenoaks has already been granted, and £16m has been set aside for the building project. Key planning documents are here — Aerial View 1 —- Aerial View 2

Commenting on the resurrected annexe plans, Andrew Shilling of the Sevenoaks Grammar School Campaign said:

Sevenoaks parents welcome the revised plans for a grammar school annexe in our town.

“A Sevenoaks grammar school is sought by the vast majority of local parents and pupils – a public consultation last year recorded 2,068 local people (98%) in favour of a grammar annexe and only 41 people (2%) against – today’s news is therefore an important step in the right direction.

“The absence of a Sevenoaks grammar school has a profoundly negative effect on local children. Every day, over 1,100 Sevenoaks children must travel to grammar schools in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells, a round trip of up to 25 miles. From a young age, many of these children spend up to two hours commuting each day. This negatively impacts on their ability to learn, on their opportunities for hobbies and sport, on their opportunities to develop friendships, and on the time they spend with their families.

“Whilst today’s grammar annexe plans are very welcome, excluding boys from the annexe is very unfortunate. In recent years, Sevenoaks boys have found it harder to access grammar school places than Sevenoaks girls, and the failure of a boys’ grammar school to come forward to sponsor a boys’ annexe has left Sevenoaks boys high and dry. We are therefore lobbying the Government, through our MP Michael Fallon, to abolish the ridiculous law introduced by Tony Blair’s Government that prohibits the establishment of new grammar schools. Only this law change will enable boys to attend the Sevenoaks grammar annexe.

“Last year Michael Gove took five months to reach a decision on the original annexe plans, and so we fervently hope that Nicky Morgan will reach a much quicker decision on this year’s resurrected plans, so that building work can commence by January and the school can then open as planned in September 2016.”

Twelve months ago, previous Education Secretary, Michael Gove, rejected plans for a mixed grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks. Mr Gove’s decision hinged on the issue of a girls grammar school (Weald Of Kent) being the proposed sponsor of a Sevenoaks annexe for both girls and boys. Unfortunately, the planned entry of boys to the annexe lead Mr Gove to rule that the annexe’s proposed admissions policy was sufficiently different to the sponsor school’s girls-only admissions policy to constitute a wholly new grammar school. (New grammar schools are banned under The School Standards and Framework Act 1998). However, today’s revised plans for a girls only annexe are expected to overcome the previous legal objections.

Kent County Council leader Paul Carter said:

I am delighted that we now have a robust proposal to put to the Secretary of State for her sign-off. School rolls are rising dramatically and we must be allowed to expand grammar schools in line with all other categories and types of school. The sites of existing grammar schools in west Kent are constrained. Therefore, the next progression is to establish an annexe grammar school as an adjunct to an existing grammar school.

“This is good news for parents with daughters, and we will continue to work in earnest to find a solution for their sons. I am hoping that they will free up on the regulation on the establishment of more grammar schools in the Conservative manifesto. This is a real test of whether or not the existing Conservative part of the Coalition administration will support grammar school expansion, albeit as an annexe of an existing school.”

Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon said:

I am delighted to support this proposal from the Weald of Kent Grammar School for a satellite annexe in Sevenoaks.

“It remains deeply unfair to parents in my constituency that we are the only area in Kent not to have a grammar school. This proposal will not only go some way to eliminating this injustice, but also produce the additional places we need in west Kent. I hope the Secretary of State makes a speedy decision.”