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Parents oppose bid to move Barton Court Grammar from Canterbury to Herne Bay as the school is accused of failing to present the facts

By Chris Pragnell

School parents are accusing a city grammar of "muddying the waters" over controversial plans to relocate to the coast.

Barton Court in Canterbury this week published results of a consultation over proposals to move to Herne Bay.

Parents have shown they are emphatically against the move – yet only a small number appear to have bothered to have their say.

Barton Court Grammar School
Barton Court Grammar School

If approved, the plans would see much of the current Longport site bulldozed and a new, larger school built at the former Herne Bay Golf Club.

An overwhelming 84% of parents said they oppose the move – but this landslide majority comprised 73 of just 87 parents who responded.

The school claims to have canvassed around 1,760 parents in total, suggesting only 5% actually put their views forward.

Parents have hit back, saying the figures are misleading and do not reflect the true level of opposition to the plans.

Barton Court head teacher Kirstin Cardus
Barton Court head teacher Kirstin Cardus

Parent Paul Todd, 40, who has a 13-year-old daughter at Barton Court, said people had been put off getting involved.

"This has been quite a cynical example by the school of trying to get the result they want," he said.

"Parents weren’t specifically told what the purpose of the move was – it kept changing.

"The school has claimed it was about expansion, then it was about better facilities, then it was about fairness to Herne Bay pupils. Originally they talked of a satellite school. That’s four different reasons.

The former Herne Bay Golf Club site
The former Herne Bay Golf Club site

"How could people have their say when they weren’t in possession of the facts? My problem with these consultation exercises is that if you don’t get involved you’re implicitly seen to approve."

Another mum, who asked not to be named, agreed. "It started with them saying we need to expand fifth form and sixth form," she said.

"Then at a parents' consultation, about two thirds of the way through, it changed. The chairman said it was nothing to do with expansion, it was about improving facilities. here was an audible gasp.

Barton Court parents at an earlier meeting with Julian Brazier MP
Barton Court parents at an earlier meeting with Julian Brazier MP

"They kept muddying the waters. People simply didn’t know what they were being asked to agree or disagree with."

Between January and March this year the school invited the views of parents and other "stakeholders" – including teachers, councillors and governors about plans to move the school.

Results, published today, reveal 66% of all respondents oppose the plans, with 84% of parents stating they are against.

According to the figures, this response represents just 5% of the total number of parents canvassed.

The unnamed mum said: "I can only assume they have calculated around two parents per pupil. But what about households with more than one pupil? Surely just one response is sent.

"It's worth noting that an online petition to these plans drew more than 700 signatures. The school’s figures are misleading."

We tried to reach headteacher Kirstin Cardus before going to press to invite her to address the parents' concerns. She opted not to speak to us directly, and issued a generic statement instead.

It said: "The governors have read and summarised all the comments received as part of the formal consultation process and are due to meet on Thursday, April 24, to review and discuss the feedback in detail.

"The governors will discuss the proposal further and then will begin to make some decisions about how they wish to proceed. They will keep stakeholders informed of their progress and their decision-making."

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