There has been considerable press coverage, following the claim in the Sunday Times that there will be a new school on the Sevenoaks annexe site for boys.
It is of course not that simple. Quite simply, there are no regulations at present in place to allow any such development, not even a boys’ annexe.
Paul Carter, Leader of KCC, who has driven the project from its beginning and now appears to have his vision fully vindicated, appears quite clear that buildings will be constructed over and above those for the girls' annexe. There is a fall-back position in that it is reported that if no school or annexe is allowed, alternative short term use is being planned.
It has been clear for years that Mrs May, even as Home Secretary was in favour of expansion of grammar schools, possibly by creation of annexes, as I wrote in November 2014. Her current ideas are clearly proving very controversial, and I see no point in adding to the debate.
However, as I also wrote in May 2015 after the General Election, about a possible boys’ annexe in Sevenoaks to balance the one being built for the girls of Weald of Kent Grammar: “the pressure to sort this one could become irresistible!” It is starting to look that way.......
|Most recent Update: 5th November 2015|
The proposed Sevenoaks Annex to Weald of Kent Grammar School has today received government approval to go ahead, creating what is almost certainly the largest grammar school in the country with an annual intake of up to 265 girls. Below I give some excerpts from Mrs Morgan's statement of Parliament, making clear the government view that this does not break the law prohibiting the creation of new grammar schools but is, in accordance with government policy, simply the expansion of a good school with integration between the two sites which is allowable. In no way is it a green light for other grammar school developments that fail to fit with such criteria.
The path to approval has been a long, controversial and difficult one since the original proposal four years ago, including rejections of two previous schemes on grounds of illegality and one vote by Weald of Kent parents against the girls’ school becoming mixed to facilitate approval. You can trace back the history of the proposal from previous articles on this website, the most recent being here.
The delays mean the school will not now open until September 2017 (not confirmed yet and there may well be legal challenges to the decision causing further delays), by which time there will be intense pressure on existing grammar school places in West Kent for both girls and boys. Building plans for the new premises have been approved; and builders appointed, just waiting for final approval to begin work.
In the meantime to respond to the pressure on places, the school has increased its intake from 145 to 175 in the past few years, taking in a massive 211 girls in September 2014, presumably on the expectation of the Annex arriving by 2016......
The Daily Mail has published an article claiming that the proposed Sevenoaks Annex is being blocked because of legal issues.
The article asserts that the legal problems are such that, even if the Secretary of State were to approve the scheme, it would be overturned by a legal challenge in the courts. Fear of a Judicial Review was likely to put a stop to the proposal going ahead.
The current scheme is the fourth to be proposed since the satellite grammar school was first proposed three and a half years ago, planning permission for the new annex has been granted, and builders are waiting to move in. Meanwhile on the same site, the new buildings for the Trinity Free School are already in progress.
The article gives no clue as to what the legal obstacles might be and, whilst they were evident in each of the three previous schemes, it is harder to see what is now suggested to be blocking the proposal.
Whatever, we are left wondering if this is just another of the myriad of rumours that have swirled around this project from the start, as confirmed by any internet search for "Sevenoaks Annex". In particular (updating five days after the original Daily Mail article) it is curious that no other media outlet has picked up the story, or is it just they have been burned before....
UPDATE: The proposal by Weald of Kent Grammar School is now being considered by the Department for Education.
There could soon be movement in the stalled proposal for a satellite grammar school in Sevenoaks, after the Home Secretary, Mrs Teresa May has come out in support of a similar proposal in her own parliamentary constituency of Maidenhead, as explained below.
Planning permission for the Sevenoaks satellite grammar school has now been passed, building contractors are in place, and an application to go ahead has been put to the Department for Education. Meanwhile, a separate plan for buildings on the same site for the Trinity Free School has also been approved and this project appears to be ready to go.
Two previous proposals for the Sevenoaks grammar development have been rejected by Mr Gove, when he was Secretary of State for Education, both on the grounds that they did not comply with current government legislation that required the satellite to have the same gender make up and admission rules as the host school. I have written about these previously.
A new proposal was put forward in September by the Governors of Weald of Kent Grammar School, to run a three form Satellite in the new premises for girls only, which would apparently overcome the previous legal hurdles but doesn't meet the pressing need for additional places for boys.
This newspaper article is an expanded version of a news item elsewhere on this website, looking at the pressure on primary school places in Kent.
There has been much comment in the national media on the growing shortage of primary school places and Kent is no exception. I am now receiving concerned enquiries almost daily from families who have moved into or are planning to move into the area and are finding no suitable school, or in some cases no school at all being offered. Others have been allocated schools they didn’t apply to and are now finding out the reasons for the lack of popularity of some of these. Key pressure areas include: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent; and much of Medway, especially Chatham, Rainham and Rochester.
The problems of what are called In Year transfers are exemplified by an email circulated to primary school headteachers in Gravesham at the beginning of September by the Local Authority desperately seeking places for 23 children in the Borough (9 in Dartford) in Years 1,2 and 3 without a place........
Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge, which admits girls up to GCSE level and is then mixed in the Sixth Form, is now attempting a third attempt with KCC support to open up the proposed grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks. The proposal is now out for consultation with parents.
The proposal shows a change of direction from previous attempts, in that the school is now looking at a three form entry girls’ only annexe up to GCSE level and then mixed in the sixth form, opening in 2016.
Building Plans for the annexe have now been approved, builders have been appointed, but at present there is no approved scheme and so building on the site is in abeyance.
My own view is that Weald Of Kent parents may well support this scheme for, as distinct from the previous proposal, there appears no disadvantage for current students and positive advantages for future students living towards Sevenoaks. There appear to be none of the previous problems with legality, and although the school is likely to make minor changes to its oversubscription criteria, there would be ample space for all qualified applicants for many years.
I have written a number of previous articles on the proposed annexe, which you can follow back from here, or else by searching for ‘Sevenoaks’ or ‘annexe’ in the search facility of this website ........
Governors of Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury, have decided the school should remain in the city, rather than pursue the proposed move to Herne Bay which would also have enabled the school to be enlarged.
The proposal, outlined in previous articles on this website, split parents with many living in the city fiercely opposed to a move to the North Coast. In the other camp, many parents and especially prospective parents living on the North Kent coast around Herne Bay and Whitstable welcomed the proposal for a brand new local school building, with excellent facilities in an area where it was becoming increasingly difficult to access a grammar school place because of rising numbers in Canterbury and along the coast.
Meanwhile, at the other end of the county in Sevenoaks, the county's second proposal to enlarge a grammar school in new premises continues on the tortuous path it has now followed for three years. Planning permission for the proposed annexe and the new Trinity Free School has been approved without difficulty, but there is still no sign of a clear and legal agreement about which school or schools are to run the annexe......
KCC has filed a new letter with Sevenoaks District Council, reproduced below, relating to its Planning Application for the Sevenoaks Grammar School Annexe and Trinity Free School. This sets out a refined version of the case for the annexe, including KCC’s continued commitment to find a solution to the problems previously covered here.
Probably the most significant paragraph is the penultimate one, which refers to an invitation to submit further proposals from an interested school. I presume this refers to a local single-sex grammar school, but following previous conclusions it would probably also need to become co-educational......
Weald of Kent Grammar School is consulting with parents about taking over the proposed Sevenoaks Grammar School annex and running it as an integral part of the school. I understand that Consultation papers are being sent out to parents this evening, and will expand and update this article when I have seen them.
However, my view is that this is the first feasible proposal to come forward and stands every chance of meeting the legal obstacles raised over the previous proposals by Weald and Invicta Grammar School. I have written several previous articles on the project and its history.
The proposal is for Weald to become co-educational and then operate the Sevenoaks annex (hopefully renamed) as an integral part of a twin site grammar school, benefitting from the additional excellent facilities planned for the new buildings. It will have a single set of admissions criteria. The school is already planning to change its oversubscription criteria for 2015 admission in line with this proposal.....
The latest OFSTED Report on Shoreham Village School, which was published earlier this week placing the school in Special Measures, is possibly the most scathing I have ever read. The school is found inadequate in every category: achievement of pupils; quality of teaching; behaviour and safety of pupils, and leadership & management. This is a dramatic turnaround from the previous inspection of 2010 when the school was judged to be good. Shoreham is just north of Sevenoaks with an annual intake of just 15 and fills each year, in spite of the problems.
Typically of failing schools, there are staffing problems: “At the time of the inspection the substantive headteacher was on long-term sick leave. Four members of staff began working in the school in September 2013, including an acting headteacher who is providing support to the school for three days a week temporarily”. This is in spite of “Arrangements to lead it temporarily have gained the confidence of parents, staff, governors and pupils”, confirming that the problems are not primarily related to the new staff appointed.
It is clear from the Leadership & Management section where the problems are located.......