The main downside is the position of many of the school’s current students who come from Canterbury itself and villages to the south. Having started at a Canterbury grammar school, they would now face an unexpected trek north to Herne Bay, recreating the traffic problem to a certain extent, but in reverse and only for a limited number of years. I imagine there will be fierce resistance from these, especially in the villages, and am already receiving enquiries from families to the south of Canterbury, who are looking at making grammar school applications in the next fortnight and are already discounting Barton Court as one of their options.
One consequence of this is that I can see Barton Court losing out on applications in the current round and until the matter is resolved. The uncertainty will clearly damage the school’s intake until then, although it was oversubscribed for 2013 entry for the first time for some years. It would now appear to be a fleeting popularity unless an increased interest from Herne Bay and Whitstable balances it out, as families from this area look to the longer term.
The other key issue has been created by Simon Langton Boys Grammar School giving priority to high scorers. If Barton Court decamps to the North Kent coast, boys who pass the Kent Test with scores below a score of 385, living in the rural areas around Canterbury, may have no grammar school to go to, if they don’t live in what is now a shrinking circle around SLGSB. If Simon Langton took all boys who passed the Kent Test subject to distance criteria, and Barton Court moved to Herne Bay, there would be a much better distribution of places around the whole area. But they don't and can’t and won't be forced to change. I can see KCC objecting to the move because of this problem, although this is not the fault of Barton Court and, as my previous article shows, KCC has previously supported the move! We shall sadly see more such examples of schools looking after their own interests against those of the local community as the idea of a county wide standard of selection breaks down even further.
Kent County Council is revising its school place Commissioning Plan, in general a very positive document, which shows no overall shortage of school places in Canterbury District. Unfortunately it does not break this down to look explicitly at grammar school places. I am confident that a wider look at grammar places across Faversham district, along the North Kent Coast and into Canterbury would pinpoint the shortage that this plan is designed to meet.
The big bonus for parents of children aspiring to grammar schools would be the addition of a further two forms of entry in an area of East Kent with a shortage of places, which will only increase with major housing projects in development. Back in July, Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Faversham supported the idea of a satellite, which would ease the pressure of places on itself, the most oversubscribed grammar school in Kent, apart from the super selectives in the West of Kent which also recruit from out county. I would be surprised if the change of plan to a relocated enlarged Barton Court Grammar will affect QEGS's support.
In summary, I think the proposal is entirely logical, but is clearly controversial for the above reasons and, whilst solving problems for many families, would create its own during the germination process.