Published: 15:00, 11 April 2019
Pupils may still have to take the bus to a school miles away even if plans for a new grammar on the coast get the go-ahead.
Two schools - Barton Court in Canterbury and Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar (QEGS) in Faversham - are vying to open an annex between Whitstable and Herne Bay to meet a projected increase in demand for secondary places.
But to comply with laws around selective school expansion, it has emerged that any pupils based at a new satellite are likely to be required to attend some lessons at their school’s existing site.
Anti-grammar campaigners have called the arrangement “messy” and a “waste of resources”.
QEGS, which has said it expects students to travel to Faversham one day a week to study alongside the rest of their year group, says the plans will help create a “single school community”.
Sixth formers could move between the two schools on a daily basis, as some subjects with lower uptake will only be taught in one location.
Whitstable mum Joanne Bartley, a campaigner with the anti-11 plus Comprehensive Future group, said: “Any new coastal grammar is not allowed to be a standalone school, because that breaks the law, and the schools know this. So they’ve hatched plans to ensure the pupils use both school sites.”
Ms Bartley says this factor has not been included in consultation documents.
She added: "Faversham parents aren’t being told that their children could have half their sixth form lessons in another town in a few years.
“This satellite school plan claims to remove a need for travel to school, but there will be lots of travel.
“It’s such a waste of resources to create a four-day a week school, instead of using any new school premises properly.”
It is believed the annex would be built on the Whitstable Bends - located eight miles from Canterbury and 11 miles from Faversham - although several possible site options are being discussed.
Pointing to data showing that large numbers of non-selective pupils from Whitstable and Herne Bay also have to travel outside of their town to attend school, Ms Bartley says there should be a “proper discussion” about what sort of new secondary would best serve the coast.
A total of 437 children living in the Herne Bay area in 2017 went to school at Archbishop’s, Canterbury Academy, Spires, St Anselm’s or the Whitstable School, while 386 attended a grammar in Canterbury.
“There’s actually more non-selective pupils travelling to schools in Canterbury than there are grammar school pupils, so why don’t we have a proper discussion about any school our towns need?,” she continued.
Barton Court declined to comment on how often travel will be required between the two sites, but said they would be run as one school, with students using facilities at both.
A spokesman for QEGS added: “We can confirm that any new satellite school in Whitstable or Herne Bay would involve students and staff moving between the two school sites.
"Pupils will have time to socialise and learn together, take part in the same competitions, activities and extra-curricular opportunities, trips and sports teams.
"Part of this strategy involves accessing the already excellent transport links, which exist between the two locations.”
They added that so far, the majority of responses to its consultation had been “positive”, citing urgent need for another secondary in Whitstable and Herne Bay and a choice between mainstream and grammar education.