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Friday, 22 August 2014 00:00

Proposals for enlargement at Barton Court Grammar and the Sevenoaks Grammar Annexe (updated 28/8) head in different directions

  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.  

Barton Court

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......


 Barton Court Grammar School

A press release by the Chairman of Governors of Barton Court makes clear that the decision not to move and enlarge was made on a financial basis, with the potential shortfall being too high to risk. The Governors cite two reasons for this: the rapid rising in building costs inflation, currently running at 7% in spite of the offer of a free site and financial backing from the developers of the area, and the lack of any funding to support the proposal from Kent County Council. Governors now plan to invest available funding into improving the current site.

Presumably, the KCC decision was based on projections of a limited increase in pupil numbers in Canterbury and east Swale districts. I have long maintained that published figures projecting future numbers and school capacity are misleading, as they do not distinguish between grammar and non-selective places. For 2014 entry, 71 children eligible for grammar school places did not get their first choice offered, across the four local grammar schools, the best estimate of pressure on places, but not giving the full picture. Others will have been awarded places on appeal, admitting both additional grammar school qualified applicants initially turned away, and those who were found selective by the appeal panel. Further, there is considerable building development planned, especially for the North Kent coast. Presumably, KCC is satisfied it can meet this growing need more cheaply by other ways. This is unlikely to be through further expansion of Barton Court on its current limited site, although it has already effectively grown to become a five form entry school through the appeals process, so there is pressure on capacity. There is a possibility at Simon Langton Girls Grammar which has previoulsy been discussed.

Sevenoaks Grammar School Annexe

Of course, it may be that KCC’s financial commitment to grammar school expansion is already fully stretched by its promotion of a grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks. This proposal has had a very mixed history, chronicled here and in previous articles linked here.  The latest development is that full planning approval for the site to build a grammar school annexe together with premises for the Trinity Free School has been granted. I have walked the site  today (28th Aug 3 p.m.) and there is no indication that any builders have been on site. However there are several dog-eared paper notices indicating parking sites for the Contractors, Willmott Dixon, if ever they come.  

The grammar school proposal has now changed shape yet again, the latest incarnation being two single sex “annexes” being run in the same premises with separate teaching, but a single governing body or trust. Weald of Kent Grammar is reported as having once again expressed an interest for the girls’ side (having seen parents strongly reject a proposal for it to become co-educational), but finding a boys’ partner may prove more difficult. According to the current criteria, it would need to be a non super selective school, which surely focuses interest on Tunbridge Wells Boys Grammar conveniently still run by KCC. This pattern, or “modular approach” is of course how the current Chatham and Clarendon Grammar School in Ramsgate started along the route to amalgamate two single sex grammar schools.

Whatever, KCC is going to face a very embarrassing climb down if the proposal falls, although we don't yet have a view from the new Secretary of State, Mrs Morgan, who has already indicated she is taking a different view from Mr Gove in a number of directions. 

Last modified on Thursday, 28 August 2014 20:47

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