to give an equal weighting for Tonbridge and Sevenoaks children, as distinct from the current criteria which give first priority to Tonbridge, then second to Sevenoaks. The only further change necessary would be to change from admitting girls only to taking in girls and boys. The school is already co-educational in the sixth form.
What parents wouldn't be able to specify is which site their children will go to if the school decides to have eleven year olds on both, but logically this would be done on a geographical basis resulting in shorter journeys for many. I suspect that current girls at Weald will not see too much change during their time at the school, for I can’t now see this going through before 2016, which will disappoint many.
As the whole school would be co-educational there would be no specific allocation for girls or boys, so the proportions would change from year to year.
The first time the idea for this proposal surfaced in public was back in December, was from Mr David Bower, Chairman of Governors of Weald, in a Radio Kent interview, so a lot of work has been done in the interim, including a Planning Application for the grammar school and Trinity Free School on the old Wilderness site. Kent Messenger has also published an online article on the proposal. Mr Bowers makes clear that this is not a done deal and that the consultation is important, although I believe that the pressures are almost irresistible, with Mr Gove being in the invidious position of having vetoed a plan strongly backed by Tory KCC and the local Conservative M.P.
My own view is that whilst there is no shortage of places for girls in West Kent at present, there is a pressing need for boy’s places and, for 2014 entry at present and before appeals and waiting lists, some boys from Sevenoaks south of the A25 have not been offered a grammar school place, even though both Judd and Skinners have taken on an additional class each. I personally doubt there will be sufficient additional take up to fill the six forms planned for the new annex in 2016, but rolls are rising for the future, and there are plenty of children in neighbouring districts in the Weald of Kent, North Sevenoaks and other parts of NW Kent who currently have problems accessing grammar school places who will now look this way. My only reservation is that Wilmington Grammar school for Boys is proposing a new priority area taking in parts of North Sevenoaks, and with Cranbrook school planning to change its admission age from 13 to 11 in 2016, which would claw back some children who otherwise travel into West Kent, six forms may be over-provision for Kent children. In such a case, there would be an inward flow from Sussex and Surrey children to take up the slack in Kent grammar schools, and the politics gets very complex!