Kent considers 'new' Sevenoaks grammar school

Pupils taking exams (generic) Opponents of selective education would rather see an end to the 11-plus exam

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Kent County Council is considering setting up a "new" grammar school in Kent, the first for 50 years.

In November, the government introduced a legal change which allows existing grammar schools to expand.

Sevenoaks is the only part of Kent without a grammar school, resulting in over 1,100 pupils travelling 15 miles to Tunbridge Wells.

An annex of a grammar school elsewhere in Kent could open, effectively creating a new school for the area.

Under the new admissions rules, councils can no longer block the expansion of both grammar and comprehensive schools.

The change does not allow for entirely new grammar schools, but it would allow existing schools to open an annex in Sevenoaks to cater for the demand.

'End selection'

Following the law change, parents in Sevenoaks launched an online petition urging the council to provide grammar school education in the area.

Councillor Mike Whiting said the authority has been looking into the relaxation of rules. He said: "If it went ahead it would effectively be a new grammar school.

"Between now and March we will find out what is possible and what is not possible but what the parents are asking for makes sense because there is no grammar school in Sevenoaks."

Caroline Watson, from Sevenoaks, whose son travels a minimum of 45 minutes to get to a grammar school in Tunbridge Wells, said: "It's difficult enough to put any child through the stress of an 11-plus exam, then there's no guarantee of a grammar school place at the end of it.

"If we can possibly ease some of that pressure by opening up further places in Sevenoaks and also cut the amount of travelling that the children currently do - that has got to be a good thing."

There are more than 160 grammar schools left across England - the remainder of a selective system scrapped in most parts of the country in the 1960s and 1970s.

The move by Kent County Council could be seen as controversial and opponents of selective education would rather see an end to the 11-plus exam.

Margaret Tulloch, from Comprehensive Future, said: "What we would like to see is areas like Kent who still have selection, to end selection and that would at a stroke reduce the stress on 11 year-olds."

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