Grammar school: Kent County Council backs expansion plan


Critics say selective schools actually reduce parental choice

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Kent County Council has voted to allow a grammar school to expand onto a new site.

The decision is likely to lead to the first major expansion of a grammar school in England for half a century.

The law in England forbids the opening of any new grammar schools, but recent changes allow them - and other popular schools - to expand.

Critics accuse the government of "expanding selection by the back door".

England has 164 grammar schools and there are 68 in Northern Ireland.

Academic selection and grammar schools were abolished in most areas of England in the 1960s and 70s.

But some areas retained them - including Buckinghamshire, Kent and Trafford. In other areas, there are individual grammar schools. Children have to pass the 11-plus exam to get in.

In 1998, Labour banned the opening of any new grammar schools, but recent changes to the Admissions Code - the rules schools have to follow when allocating places - allow oversubscribed schools to expand beyond their boundaries.

'Parental demand'

In Kent, parents in the Sevenoaks area set up an online petition to campaign for such an expansion, arguing that this was the only part of the county without a grammar school.


Grammar schools in England are small in number but they inspire a lot of passion, and a decision by Kent to allow this kind of expansion could be a turning point.

It will also reignite a fierce debate.

Opponents say they divide children in to "sheep and goats" at 11 through the 11-plus exam, which they have to pass to get a place, and that schools around them suffer. Supporters say they are beacons of excellence which help children achieve their potential - and that academically bright pupils are best taught together.

The issue is politically sensitive too.

Labour opposes academic selection but did not abolish grammar schools while in government. Instead it said the issue should be decided by ballots of local parents - but the process was involved and expensive and only one case was brought, which did not succeed.

In 2007, David Cameron risked a backbench rebellion when he dropped the party's pledge to build more grammar schools as he sought to modernise the party.

Now the way is becoming more open for grammars to expand. Some say Education Secretary Michael Gove has produced an "elegant political solution", but critics call it a "backdoor expansion".

New grammar school battles

They say more than 1,100 pupils who have passed the 11-plus have to travel for an hour to Tunbridge Wells to their nearest grammar school.

Now Kent County Council has voted to press ahead with plans to set up a "satellite school" in Sevenoaks linked to existing grammar schools in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

The new "satellite school" would take in 120 pupils in a year.

The National Grammar School Association says many other grammars would like to expand. Jennie Varley, vice chairman of the group said: "This is excellent news.

"It's what the parents in Sevenoaks wanted and they put together a great campaign. This may now encourage other grammar schools to do the same."

'Back door'

Labour's education spokesman Stephen Twigg has accused the government of "sneaking in changes" and "expanding selection by the back door".

"We should not divide children at 11," he told MPs earlier this year.

A Department for Education spokesman said on Thursday: "The overriding objective of this government's reforms is to increase the supply of good school places so parents have real choice.

"That includes making it easier for good schools - grammar or otherwise - to increase their published admission number.

"Legislation prohibits the establishment of new grammar schools, and ministers have been clear that that will not change."

Margaret Tulloch, from the Comprehensive Future campaign group, said grammar schools widened the gap between rich and poor.

"We want to see not grammar schools abolished, but selection abolished. We don't want the 11-plus; we don't want children facing this barrier, this test at 11, which rejects most children, especially poor children and children with special needs," she said.

"I'm very concerned about what is happening. This is the thin end of the wedge."


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  • rate this

    Comment number 502.

    I passed my A-levels with 3 A's and a B from a comprehensive school. It was hard work that helped me pass. Of course the resources available help, but at the end of the day its down to the student to make the most of what they have. So before talking about the education system its down to the parents to motivate the students. Look at Linekar's child, privately educated but didn't get into uni.

  • rate this

    Comment number 501.

    Where is the campaign to bring back secondary modern schools? Bringing back grammar schools needs two questions. (1) Do you want to see more grammar schools? Do you think your child(ren) would get a place at grammar school?

  • rate this

    Comment number 500.


    "it's our choice to send our children to GS"

    I think you'll find it isn't. Are you in favour of grammar schools? Of course. Are you in favour of secondary moderns? Of course ... for other people's children.

  • rate this

    Comment number 499.

    Preventing children with real Academic talent from maximising their ability isn't just wrong it's immoral. If they are capable of it, let them fly and succeed.

  • rate this

    Comment number 498.

    Way back in 1949 I sat what was, at my primary school, a routine set of tests and only found out later that I'd passed for the local grammar school. No pressure, no hype - just routine procedure that happened on a regular basis. A further set of tests were sat at age 13 to select pupils for the local technical school if they had not passed the 11+. This system seemed to work well.

  • rate this

    Comment number 497.

    Education and the drive to achieve is almost entirely to do with expectation.

    There is no 'one size fits all' answer as individuals respond to different teachers and teaching methods in different ways. Choice has always been good.

    Life is very competitive and the sooner children learn and understand that, the easier they cope with it. Most educationalists don't seem to grasp this!

  • rate this

    Comment number 496.

    What system do they have in countries that have a working education system ?

    Grant maintained, Academies, Grammar schools . .

    As a tax payer, someone please explain why a child of mine should not receive the best education that the state has to offer ?

    You can't assess a persons full potential at the age of 11 !

    Holding back more kids as intended.

  • rate this

    Comment number 495.

    Seems to me these days we try to encourage everyone to get a degree and go into management. Who's left to do the important non management jobs?

    We should allow academically minded kids to go to Grammar schools, but also encourage practical minded kids to take up vocational schooling and build a society that respects craftsmen and artisans and allows them to earn a decent wage.

  • rate this

    Comment number 494.

    The principle of fairness should apply equally to everyone, regardless of their innate abilities. Bright children need to be stretched as much as all the others, which doesn't happen in mixed-ability classes, and therefore requires streaming. It will benefit all individuals as well as our country overall. If only grammar schools can achieve sustained streaming, then we need more of them.

  • rate this

    Comment number 493.

    >459. Bossuk
    >Yes, which means in the current one size fits all schooling, the 2
    >extremes are being ignored

    The two 'extremes' in this case accounting for 15/16 of the students in two years. The ones who get the attention are the 1/16 for which landing on the right side of the border will affect the school's league table ranking.

  • rate this

    Comment number 492.

    Re comment 483. posted wrong link. Should be this one It shows Bucks secondary schools underperforming the national average (although in fairness Kent's schools seem to outperform). the point is that counties with grammar schools don't seem to do any better than other counties..

  • rate this

    Comment number 491.

    At last, a little commonsense has prevailed. My father the son of a joiner became a secondary and comprehensive school headmaster. He still maintains at the age of 91 that the old system was the best and that everything has gone downhill since politics enterred our education system in the 1960s. Good news from Kent!

  • rate this

    Comment number 490.

    It is hilarious that the chip on the shoulder lefties all hate any system which can give personal advancement to anyone. Grammar schools are without a doubt turning out higher qualified children.These children will probably earn more in general and therefore will pay more into the tax pool to save the unemployed who did not do too well in the reading books dept.

  • rate this

    Comment number 489.

    >> It really can't be so difficult to stream children so that they can be taught to their academic level within the same schools

    Yes it is difficult.
    Because children from 'advanced' stream will be bullied by those from underperforming stream simply for 'bein' clever, aint' ya?'.
    Teacher frustrated by underperforming and badly behaving class won't be able to deliver the subject effectivelly.

  • rate this

    Comment number 488.

    If Grammar schools were abolished would we see a more fair and equal society?
    Would people with high intellect at an early age still be able to progress without going to a Grammar school?

    I think so.

  • rate this

    Comment number 487.


    Exactly who is suffering from reduced opportunities then ?
    You try to maintain that bright kids get the same opportunity at a comprehensive than they do at a grammar (why do they prefer to go to grammar school then ?).
    Do you seriously believe that a kid who wants to work in a manual job somehow loses out because they didn't get into an academically focussed grammar school?

  • rate this

    Comment number 486.

    Well, I see from stats that the pass rate for Kent Grammar schools is about 25%. By my reckoning that can't make them particularly special.

  • rate this

    Comment number 485.


    "If schools are churning out illiterate and innumerate children who is really at fault?"

    Is it an educational system drunk on left wing ideology and asinine platitudes?

    "Grammar v Comp will not improve this situation"

    It worked previously, much to the annoyance of the Socialist Worker types!

  • rate this

    Comment number 484.

    Class warfare is no better than racism, children have no say into which family they are born! Maybe the lefties should focus their hatred on Ed 'Multi-millionaire' Miliband for a change.

  • rate this

    Comment number 483.

    if you seperate kids at 11 you'll create 2 sets of students: intelligent ones (who get higher paid jobs) & 1 set who get the skilled-based jobs (lower paid). What should be happening is that all get the same intellectual training until they can make an informed choice of what sort of job they want. This choice, should not be hindered by possible salries, hence all jobs should be seen as the same.


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