Tunbridge Wells people support more grammars

Ban on new grammars confirmed but annexe loophole remains

Residents of Tunbridge Wells are overwhelmingly in favour of the decision to create more new grammars, according to a Times poll.

More than 86 per cent of respondents answered ‘yes’ to the question on our website: “Should the government lift the grammar school ban.’

Kent County Council also backed the idea, but head teachers across the borough are split, one calling it ‘a bad, sad day for education.’

Last week the government gave Weald of Kent the green light to build a secondary site in Sevenoaks where 450 girls will be educated.

As an annexe to an existing school, the plans have sidestepped the ban on building new grammars introduced under Blair’s Labour government in 1998.

Critics have expressed fears the move will ‘open the floodgates’ to a wave of new selective schools.

But the vast majority of Times readers would welcome such an outcome.

Respondent Sian Field said: “The truth simply is that state schools do not cater well enough for more academic pupils.

“My youngest is absolutely flourishing in the grammar school compared to her previous school where she often became bored.”

KCC called the decision ‘excellent news for hundreds of girls and their families’, but stressed it would not mean more new grammars, as the school had ensured its plans met legal requirements for an annexe.

But Ian Bauckham, head of Bennett Memorial School in Tunbridge Wells, is opposed to creating more grammar places.

He said: “The more people who get traditional, high quality, academic education the better.

“However, the challenge is to extend this quality of education to as many children as possible. I do not think selection at 11+ is a fit for purpose way of doing this.”

Mary Boyle, head of Knowle Academy in Sevenoaks, fears non-selective schools will lose their best pupils to the new annexe.

She said: ‘It’s a bad, sad day for education in general, not just for this school.

“People will see ours is an all-abilities school, and if their children are of top ability, they’ll now be more likely to try and get them into the grammar school.”

But Skinners’ School head Edward Wesson said; “It’s good news for those parents who have been deprived of a local grammar school all these years.

“There is a great demand for grammars in Tunbridge Wells as well, but we are lucky that we have outstanding provision, in terms of selective and all-ability education.

“In terms of selective education, I appreciate there is a moot point about the timing of selection at 11. That is the issue that is clearly controversial, rather than the principle of selection itself.”

A Sunday newspaper reported this week that families could be priced out of areas where ‘new’ grammars are built.

Estate agents told the Mail on Sunday that house prices could jump by ten per cent near Sevenoaks as a result of the government’s decision.

Edward Church, of Strutt & Parker, said the area would become more attractive to parents hoping to avoid private school fees but that rising prices would have the ‘unfortunate side effect’ of making properties too expensive for less wealthy families.

According to Rightmove, the average property price in Sevenoaks is currently £573,346.

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