Unless the law and Government policy radically changes, the Sevenoaks grammar school annexe will not lead to the widespread return of selective education across England. Instead, the annexe is likely to be a “one-off” that is unlikely to be repeated elsewhere.
The reason is that there are a number of critical factors that, in combination, are unique to Sevenoaks that make an annexe grammar school feasible here, but probably nowhere else. These critical factors are:-
- A supportive Local Education Authority;
- High population growth in secondary school age children (c. 40% increase over the next six years);
- A very large number of grammar school children (c. 1,150) being transported daily out of town up to 20 miles;
- An existing selective education system;
- Very strong local community support (70% support a “satellite” grammar school in the town; only 11% support a new comprehensive school); and
- A vacant secondary school site in the town.
The Sevenoaks parents are not calling for the reintroduction of selective education across the country – we are not claiming that selective schools are better than comprehensive schools. We are merely saying that we happen to live in a selective area, and it is therefore wrong for our children to travel 20 miles per day, for up to two hours, many on overcrowded and dangerous buses, to attend selective schools. It is also wrong for our children who pass the 11 plus test to not be offered places at a selective school.
The Sevenoaks grammar school annexe will ensure that there are adequate selective school places available as the population in West Kent grows, and will alleviate the burden of travelling for a large number of our children. However, due to the unique combination of factors in Sevenoaks, an annexe is unlikely to be repeated elsewhere unless the law and Government policy radically changes.