Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury
A Canterbury grammar school has finally admitted it wants to move to a new site in Herne Bay, and could be open in less than four years.
Barton Court had initially considered opening an additional satellite school on the coast.
But this evening, parents and councillors were told of plans to close the city’s school in Longport altogether and open a new facility on the former site of Herne Bay Golf Club.
The proposals form part of a planning application submitted to Canterbury City Council by developer Quinn Estates, which wants to build 600 homes and a sports hub at the site.
If it is approved, the school, which would eventually expand to accommodate 60 more pupils, could open as early as September 2017.
Herne Bay Golf Club development site
Mark Quinn, of Quinn Estates, says the new school would provide “a real boost” for Herne Bay, and has offered to donate land for the development and allow students to share the sports facilities planned for the site.
Barton Court head teacher Kirstin Cardus previously refused to confirm her involvement in the project, but has now asked people to support the bid and give their views.
Last week, she sent a letter to parents to inform them of her “desire to expand the school and significantly improve the facilities available”.
Barton Court head teacher Kirstin Cardus
She explained that school bosses had been exploring the “merits and practicalities of creating additional spaces with state-of-the-art facilities at a possible site in Herne Bay”.
She has been holding talks with the developers and county council education chiefs since July, when the Gazette exclusively revealed proposals for a satellite school.
But the full extent of plans to move the entire site away from the city and into Herne Bay were not revealed until this evening, when a presentation was given to parents and councillors in the school hall.
It was also the day pupils across Kent found out the results of their 11-Plus exams, with 5,500 expected to pass and only 4,000 grammar school places.
Speaking exclusively to the Gazette this week, Ms Cardus says the new development presents “a once in a lifetime opportunity” to give generations of students purpose-built, state-of-the-art school buildings and sports facilities.
She said: “Barton Court is an outstanding school with fantastic results.
“We are very popular and heavily oversubscribed. We do not have room to expand on our current site to accommodate those wanting to come here.
"The new site at Herne Bay provides us with the space to expand our year 7 intake over time from four classes to six classes."
Ms Cardus says grammar school pupils in Canterbury are already served by the Simon Langton girls’ and boys’ schools.
A thousand of Canterbury’s grammar school students, nearly one third, travel into the city from Herne Bay and Whitstable.
Nearly half of Barton Court’s pupils live in the coastal towns and only 10% live in the city centre.
Chairman of governors Dr Peter Klappa says the project is still in the early stages, but he feels it is now the right time to involve parents and the community.
He says: “We are still working through the detail but we believe the plan, which would see the new buildings open in September 2017, to be a sound one.”
Discussions about moving Barton Court from Canterbury to Herne Bay were instigated by the town’s MP Sir Roger Gale.
Speaking this week, he said: “The plans by Barton Court Grammar School to move to the Bay have my fullest possible support. This is the only way that the school, which is heavily over-subscribed, can expand to meet the need of parents.
“It is vital that we have an adequate number of grammar school places to accommodate 25% of each secondary school year, something that I do not believe that the recent Education Commissioning Plan published by KCC addresses.
“It is also high time that the very many selective students currently travelling from Herne Bay to other locations had the opportunity to attend a grammar school of their own and I believe that his proposal satisfies the Secretary of State’s requirements.
“Barton Court has recognised this need and also intends to meet the needs of parents by adding another 60 places in the coming years.”
Canterbury and Whitstable MP Julian Brazier also supported the plans, which he said would give coastal children better access to a grammar school education.