Kent County Council plea for more South East grammar schools

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Teacher in class
Image caption,
The law bans any building of new grammar schools in England

Kent's education chief has called for grammar schools to open in other counties after figures revealed numbers of pupils coming from outside Kent.

Statistics from Kent County Council (KCC) showed 2,156 out of 11,085 11-plus candidates in Kent last year were from outside the county.

Councillor Mike Whiting said there were not enough places and KCC would like more grammars to open.

The law bans any building of new grammar schools in England.

When asked if the solution was for other authorities to be allowed to create grammar schools, Mr Whiting, cabinet education spokesman, said: "I think part of the solution here all round would be exactly that.

"Parents are obviously voting with their choices of schools here. They are placing their children. They like the grammar school system. They particularly like it in Kent, the voters seem to like it."

"And yes, if we can work with government to find ways of allowing new grammar schools to be opened then I think we would," he said.

'Children displaced'

Independent schools expert Peter Read has gathered figures for transfers between counties for each of Kent's borders.

He said 197 children from London were attending north west Kent grammar schools this year.

Two grammars in Tunbridge Wells, Judd and Skinners, had taken in about 20% of their intake from East Sussex, according to his figures.

But he said children were also travelling out of Kent to study, to areas including Medway, the London boroughs of Bexley and Bromley, East Sussex, and Surrey.

'Law will not change'

Amanda Manuel, of Sevenoaks Action for Community Education, said there was an issue with "super-selective" schools admitting children from up to 50 miles away.

She said: "The impact on travelling for the children that are travelling into those schools is huge.

"It's also a real issue for the children that live next to those schools who can't attend them and are then displaced to other schools, and so everybody is doing far more travelling than is necessary."

KCC said it could not refuse places to children outside the county and most schools ran their own admissions systems.

In 1998, Labour banned the building of any new grammars. Opponents of grammar schools say they are socially divisive, but supporters say the schools are beacons of excellence.

A spokeswoman for the Department for Education said: "Current legislation prohibits the introduction of new grammar schools and ministers are clear that this will not change.

"We have made it easier for all successful state-funded schools to increase the number of places they offer and we are building new free schools to meet demand from parents.

"Local authorities should ensure they can offer a suitable school place to every child in their area."

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