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Tuesday, 29 October 2019 16:05

Second Sevenoaks Annexe: Consultation from Tunbridge Wells Grammar Boys to go Ahead

Note: This is an update to a previous article, now deleted

At long last it looks as if the second part of the Sevenoaks grammar school annexe buildings will be built and occupied as originally planned, in response to a growing shortage of grammar school places in West Kent. A consultation document on the development of a separate annexe has now been published, which appears to provide a fairly straightforward progress to completion in 2021 for 90 boys in Year Seven, following approval of the girls’ annexe three years ago.

This will be an important increase in selective education places for West Kent. At present, grammar school qualified boys from the north of the District, who are not eligible for the super selective Judd and Skinners schools, have to travel up to 22 miles to TWGSB which is bursting at the seams as it keeps having to expand to meet local need.

Additional grammar school places are certainly needed to meet the increasing number of Kent children being assessed as selective due to a growing population. There is a forecast deficit of 242 places for boys and girls jointly by 2022-23 (see below). I have explored the non selective place issues several times previously, for example here.

 Note: Originally it was called an ‘annex’, although the extra ‘e’ appears now to have become the norm.

You will find a considerable number of articles about the Sevenoaks Annexe(s) dating back to 2012 on this site. Place the word 'annex' in the search engine, top left hand side, front page. In my first full article, I wrote: 'There is a shortage of grammar school places in West Kent. The problem is that it is a shortage for boys in the north of the area - it is said that there are 49 boys displaced without any grammar school place in and around north Sevenoaks town, unable to gain access to Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys in the south.  Clearly for these it would be ideal'. Nine years on, it looks as if it will happen! 

Since the Sevenoaks annexe was conceived and championed by previous Leader of KCC Paul Carter as long ago as 2012, it soon switched from proposed management by Invicta Grammar School in Maidstone, to become a single annexe managed by two grammar schools, one for boys and one for girls. This fell when no boys’ school came forward at the time and so the Weald of Kent took on an annexe for girls only, with adjacent premises to be built for boys when a suitable sponsor came forward.  Planning Permission for the additional premises was granted along with those for the first half, now in full use.

TWGSB has always been the obvious tenant for the new premises, and it may be that the change of heart has followed the retirement of the previous long serving headteacher, John Harrison, and the appointment of his successor, Amanda Simpson. TWGSB is one of the last remaining Local Authority grammar schools in the county, which although it means it has fewer freedoms than academies such as Weald of Kent, the proposal is easier to manage. For the proposal will be driven by KCC whose new Leader, Roger Gough, just happens to represent Sevenoaks as a County Councillor. National politics?????

The consultation also proposes that in addition, there will be improvements to the school’s main Tunbridge Wells site to ensure all pupils have access to the same standard of facilities regardless of the site they attend.

The Trinity School and the two grammar satellite provisions would work together to coordinate the most effective use of any shared facilities, both during and after the school day. This proposal has resulted in updated feasibility studies being produced to ensure sufficient sports facilities and external circulation and play spaces are available for all the schools on site.

There may be limited times when students from all three schools on site interact, such as sixth form students sharing common, social spaces. However, students will not be taught together. The schools will look to ensuring dining facilities are sufficient to ensure pupils from the boys and girls satellites will not dine together. Break times will be staggered and accordingly, sporting and outdoor facilities will be timetabled appropriately to avoid students mixing during the school day.

Two comments below (with my own thoughts) identify possibly the greatest objection to the proposal, which is the access to three establishments from a single narrow road. 

The Consultation document notes that as the demand for places continues, KCC will likely seek new secondary provision elsewhere in the district.

Kent County  Council has a rolling Education Provision Plan, most recently updated earlier this year. This states:

West Kent Selective Planning Group
There are six schools in the planning group: Judd School, Tonbridge Grammar School, Weald of Kent Grammar School, Skinners' School, Tunbridge Wells Girls' Grammar School and Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys. Demand for selective places is forecast to increase and exceed capacity throughout the Plan period, peaking at a deficit of 242 Year 7 places in 2022-23. In response to this demand, we will establish 3FE of boys’ selective provision at the Wilderness site as an annexe to an existing boys’ grammar school. Additionally, 2FE of girls’ selective provision will be required from 2020-21. Medium to longer term forecasts indicate that a further 2FE will be required in 2022-23 subject to the pace and scale of housing development
 
Opposition to the Proposal
There is a small but vocal opposition to any expansion for grammar school places irrespective of the fact that as a selective authority Kent County Council is bound to provide these in line with population growth. However, in spite of five years of lobbying, campaigning and bombarding KCC with Freedom of Information requests about the project, for example here, and most recently at Another Futile Attack on Weald of Kent Annexe, just last month. 
, they appear to have been unable to find a chink in the legality of the Weald of Kent annexe on this site. As the Tunbridge Wells Grammar Boys project is of an identical nature, I do not see them making any further progress. Whatever, the future of this project will no doubt be made to be controversial but the objectors, who appear never to mention the interests of the local children at the centre of the proposal, might like to take these into account when mounting their inevitable challenge. 

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 30 October 2019 13:13

3 comments

  • Comment Link Friday, 01 November 2019 23:42 posted by Trying to be a Tory,

    Peter, why are you the only voice speaking out in favour of this excellent proposal to sort the shortage of boys grammar school places in West Kent. I have seen you on TV twice, I have seen Jo Bartley who opposes selection completely, but of KCC absolutely nothing. Is it that members fear this will fail and want to keep as far away from it as possible? They tell me there is a new Cabinet Member for Education. Where is he? You are to be congratulated on your excellent article. It should be sent to all KCC members to remind them what they should be doing. I know - its Brexit that has diverted their attention! PETER: some good questions.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 30 October 2019 13:02 posted by Judith Borrell

    The effect on existing local roads has to be a major consideration. Area is grid locked at school finishing time. I travel daily through this area and often queue from just after Knole Academy heading to bat and ball traffic lights and then all the way to traffic lights by the school. Taking 15 minutes just this stretch. Road improvements have to be made before this annex is Allowed to open. Parents pulling out from school car park block the road and park inconveniently in side residential roads It’s noticeably different when schools are closed. PETER:Good point! This will get worse in any case as the current annexe fills up to higher age groups. However, there is a pressing need for additional grammar school places and there appears no current alternative. One can only hope if this goes ahead that this issue is addressed somehow.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 30 October 2019 13:00 posted by Hetty

    It's all very well Peter and agree in principle to the boys grammar being created, however, the roads around the school are already utterly gridlocked due in part to the Trinity expansion and this potential new influx of children will impact yet further. Moreover, with 3 schools on this site, they will undoubtedly all feel very squashed for space - not ideal in the slightest! PETER: I quite understand your concerns having visited one of the sites several times. However, whilst the Consultation addresses the issue, I am very unimpressed with its conclusion, that suggests giving families advice on how to choose alternative routes and 'hoping' many will walk or use public transport. This is not good enough. As a retired secondary headteacher living very close to a secondary school, I see too many parents focusing on their own child's convenience and ignoring all advice. I suggest this should be a major issue for respondents to the consultation

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