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Tuesday, 02 February 2016 22:06

Medway Council keeps secret its views on Chatham Grammar Co-Ed Bid

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The issues surrounding Chatham Grammar School for Boys’ proposals to go co-educational and also to redefine the way “grammar school ability” is determined are obviously of considerable importance to all secondary schools and the families affected in Medway. You will find my most recent article on the controversy here.

Medway Council’s view is clearly central to the situation as they have legal responsibility for the provision of education, if not the power since the introduction of academies.

According to the Thinking Schools Academy Trust, owners of Chatham Grammar, Medway Council is supportive of the proposal to go co-educational: “In Medway the Council can see the benefit of a co-educational school to absorb both boys and girls” and “Medway LEA were happy for the school to increase its published admission number to accommodate all those that applied for a place”.

Unfortunately, whether this is true or not is currently a secret, as Medway Council is refusing to make its representations to the consultation public at this time……

Given the alleged support by the Council of what is certainly a controversial proposal in view of the damage it will inflict on other local schools, I wrongly supposed that Medway Council would be open in its views on the proposals, which should surely have been discussed in Council Committee, given their significance.

However, in reply to a Freedom of Information request I submitted to the Council, I received the following: “Medway Council are of the opinion that it is not in the public interest to release its comments ahead of the schools own release of data, as the consultation is the schools’ not Medway Council’s”.  This is of course yet another nonsense by the Council, for it is surely in the public interest to know what the Council’s view is, who on the Council framed that view, and who was consulted before it was drawn up. This is a document that belongs to the Council, not to the school, and they have every right, and I would say duty, to declare their point of view.

I can see no public interest whatever in keeping this secret until such time as a decision is made, when the Council can then complacently plead that it is all history.

The extent of the impact on other schools was widened at the final meeting for parents on 3rd December, when the notes record: “Mr Gardner said that only in exceptional circumstances would Governors consider any application (from girls in other Year Groups) but it would not be the norm. Ms Shepherd stated that under the Equalities Act then an application can be pursued but for a small number and if it was considered the best option for the child.” If this is the case, then I cannot see that the school would have the power to limit applications from girls  to any Year Group if there is space, as they would need to be considered on the same basis as boys, perhaps by the same Committee of Governors set up to look at late Year 7 applications (see my article).  Presumably Medway Council’s response then would be “Oh, we didn’t understand what was being proposed. We didn’t realise the damage it would do to other schools!”.

I am surely not alone in waiting sight of the Medway Council secret representation with interest, when it finally emerges in the public gaze. 

Read 2717 times Last modified on Tuesday, 02 February 2016 22:21

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