Published: 10:00, 16 September 2016
A Kent secondary school is to consult parents over a plan to become a mixed grammar as the government clears the way for more selection, we can reveal.
Meopham School in Gravesham, which has about 630 pupils, could be the first in the country to take advantage of the government’s relaxation on new grammars and says that if it goes ahead, it aims to make the switch by 2018.
Parents were told of the consultation today via email, with staff briefed earlier this morning.
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The school, part of the Swale Academy Trust, is a high-performing school popular with parents. Its GCSE exam results are among the best in the county for non-selective schools.
It was rated an outstanding school by Ofsted in 2014 and its website underlines a focus on “traditional academic subjects” and a commitment to teaching in “traditional classroom spaces.”
Its decision to consult on transforming to a grammar could be controversial but academy chiefs believe it will prove popular with parents in the area.
The nearest selective schools in the immediate area are the Mayfield Grammar for Girls and the Gravesend Grammar School for Boys.
Jon Whitcombe, the chief executive officer of the Swale Academy Trust, said the school believed there was a gap in grammar provision it could fill.
“We are setting out the idea for an initial consultation. We believe there is place for a mixed grammar school in a rural area and it would be popular,” he said.
In a letter sent to parents, Mr Whitcombe said: "We understand from our knowledge of the local community that there is a need for additional Grammar School places in the area.
"We also believe many parents would welcome the opportunity to have a local mixed Grammar School provision as an alternative to the current single sex Grammar schools.
"In light of this I am writing to seek your views on converting Meopham School to a mixed entry Grammar School for new entrants from September 2018.
"Specifically we are seeking your views as to whether you would:
a) support in principle converting Meopham to full mixed sex Grammar School status from September 2018 subject to the necessary legislation being enacted and further more detailed consultation to follow.
b) oppose the proposal."
He said it was important to stress that, if the proposal was successful, those students already in the school who haven't passed the Kent selection test would continue to be taught and supported.
But, from 2018 entrance would be via the Meopham Selection Test.
He added: "Swale Academies Trust recognises that this is a potentially contentious issue.
"However, it is important to stress that this proposal is at the very earliest stages of development and that we are actively interested in ensuring a thorough and balanced discussion over what is right for the school and the community prior to any decision being taken."
This year, the school recorded some of the best GCSE results in the county for a non-selective school.
Some 71% of students achieved 5 or more good GCSEs, including English and maths, significantly above the county average.
In addition, 84% secured a grade C or above in English Language while 80% secured a grade C or above in maths.
The news comes as the political row over the government’s plans to allow more grammars shows no sign of abating.
Prime Minister Theresa May and Labour leader traded blows over the policy in the Commons this week, with the Labour leader saying results in Kent showed the system did not work.
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