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Saturday, 21 September 2013 00:00

Sevenoaks Satellite and Trinity Free School: Agreement is reached

UPDATE (22nd October): It is becoming very apparent from Telephone Consultations and other enquiries, that Trinity School, the Sevenoaks Christian Free School, is likely to be considerably oversubscribed for 2014 entrance. Also, its distance measurement to determine priority for the 60 places awarded on nearest distance is taken from the centre of the Knole East proposed school site to the child's home. 

Kent County Council has agreed with the Trinity Free School and the Secretary of State for Education that the Free School should share the old Wildernesse School with the proposed new satellite grammar school from September 2015. This would be conditional on the Secretary of State actually giving approval for the satellite, although this is starting to look a given. At a public meeting last week, outline plans for the two schools were revealed.


            The site of the old Wildernesse School

With all three parties supporting the proposal, this would avoid the potential costly legal battle that threatened if the two schools were in competition for the same site, as initially seemed likely. Whilst the Trinity School has consistently supported the idea of site sharing, KCC was initially opposed but now clearly recognises this is the sensible way forward.

I have written a number of previous articles which analyse issues such as the potential source of students and describe the story as it has unfolded. If you put Sevenoaks in my search engine, or pick up the tags at the bottom of this page you should find all of them. 

One potential obstacle still exists to the plan, assuming the Secretary of State approves it. For the interpretation of the law that allows the setting up of a mixed satellite by a single sex grammar school remains open to legal challenge, and there are still interested parties who would be happy to see it fail, although their threat appears to be diminishing......

There is an excellent mock up of the proposed plans here on the Sevenoaks Chronicle website. The Wildernesse buildings would be razed, and the proposal would provide two completely separate school buildings, the satellite grammar school being six forms of entry, the Trinity School four forms. One thought: if Trinity can attract as it has done, 92 students to a converted office block for the next two years, it surely has the potential to expand well past its Planned Admission Number of 120 within a very short time, certainly by the time it occupies the new buildings when it will look increasingly attractive. Is there room for expansion built into the plans?

The Education Funding Agency (the academy arm of the Department for Education) would be responsible for the capital costs of Trinity School, with KCC providing funding for the satellite grammar. The land appears to remain in the ownership of Kent County Council.

There is still a great deal to be agreed including the sponsors of the Satellite, with two rival bidders, The Valley Invicta Academy Trust (VIAT) and the Weald of Kent Grammar school. KCC has thrown its weight behind the former with a grant of £75,000 to cover preparation work for the bid, causing outrage at the rival Weald of Kent Grammar which was not invited to participate in the process and reckons this is far too expensive. The Secretary of State will have to choose between the two rival bids if he decides to go ahead with the proposal, but this KCC preferential backing surely hands it to Valley Invicta.

This mutual agreement to share the site has been welcomed by both VIAT and Trinity School. Once again the Sevenoaks Grammar school Campaign Group has been wrong footed with its consistent opposition to the Trinity school’s existence, let alone site sharing. To quote from its website:  “Q: Can the Sevenoaks Grammar School and the proposed Christian School both share the vacant Wildernesse site when both schools open in September 2013 (sic)? A: Unfortunately, no. Two new secondary schools would be great news for Sevenoaks. However, as the Sevenoaks Grammar School is likely to be a large KCC funded school catering for up to 180 Sevenoaks area children per year, it will clearly be impractical for the two schools to share the Wildernesse site as there will be insufficient space from September 2013. In addition, it will be legally impossible for the two schools to share the same site. This is because the Grammar School will be funded by KCC, whereas the Christian School will be funded by central government. In addition, both schools will operate under completely different legislation and will be under different ownership. Therefore, as a matter of law, only one of the schools can occupy the Wildernesse site which, significantly, is owned by KCC rather than by central government”.

Last modified on Friday, 05 December 2014 23:14

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