Education & Family

Kent grammar legal guidance unlikely to be published

Weald of Kent Grammar School
Image caption Tonbridge's Weald of Kent Grammar School will open a site in Sevenoaks in 2017

The government is unlikely to publish legal guidance given to ministers on England's first "new" grammar school in 50 years, the BBC understands.

A Kent grammar school is being allowed to build an "annexe" in another town.

The Sunday Times said Whitehall lawyers had told ministers the move had only a 50% chance of surviving any legal challenge and recommended such a plan needed at least 60% to go ahead.

Labour's shadow education secretary Lucy Powell wants the advice published.

Sidestep

Weald of Kent school in Tonbridge will open a site in Sevenoaks in September 2017 with places for 450 girls, sidestepping a ban on new grammar schools.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan has said the decision will not suddenly allow more schools to select by ability but was a "genuine expansion" of an existing school.

Mrs Morgan said the ban on new grammars would remain under a "statutory prohibition" passed by Labour in 1998 on new selective schools.

Image caption Nicky Morgan denied that the Weald of Kent decision would lead to lots of extra grammar schools

The Sunday Times reported that officials said the decision did not meet the suggested 60% threshold and advised Mrs Morgan she should make a "political judgement".

Feasibility

Commenting on the story, Ms Powell said: "The decision by ministers on this new grammar school looks like a clear attempt to subvert the law.

"Nicky Morgan must now publish the advice ministers received so we can see the basis on which she made the decision to open the floodgates on the expansion of selective education in this country."

Ministers are likely to decline Labour's request for guidance to be made public as advice from officials is normally regarded as private and is, for example, exempt even from Freedom of Information requests, the BBC understands.

Margaret Tulloch of Comprehensive Future, a group which campaigns for equality of opportunity in education, confirmed they were taking advice on the feasibility of a judicial review of the decision in the High Court.

Ms Tulloch said that if the advice had been paid for with public money "it should be available to the opposition".

She added: "We argue for all schools to have an all-ability intake from year seven. We are not about bulldozing grammar schools."

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