Two schools have revealed ambitions to open a new coastal grammar site for Whitstable and Herne Bay.
Barton Court and Faversham’s Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School (QEGS) have both launched public consultations this week on the potential for a satellite campus which would help meet growing demand for secondary school places.
They both intend to submit an application to the Department for Education’s Selective School Expansion Fund at the end of April, the outcome of which will be known in the autumn.
Long-held hopes of a coastal grammar were bolstered earlier this year when Kent County Council revealed that such a move is the “preferred option” to provide the 150 extra selective school places it believes will be needed annually to cope with proposed housing developments across the district.
It is believed the annex would be built on the Whitstable Bends, located between the two towns, although several possible site options are being discussed with landowners.
QEGS says that with 272 pupils from Whitstable on its school roll in October 2017 and 14 from Herne Bay, it is already considered the area’s coastal grammar, but that in recent years it has had to reduce its catchment area and turn away pupils from further afield.
Head teacher David Anderson said: “We at Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School are very interested in the possibility of creating a satellite provision on the coast. We are very aware that students from the Canterbury coastal area have faced significant challenges in accessing grammar school places.
“We strongly believe in the benefit of having local choice and a satellite grammar school would provide the opportunities and choice that students deserve. The growing population and housebuilding projects in the local area mean that the need for the new provision is more pressing than ever.
“Historically, many students from these towns have attended Queen Elizabeth’s but are no longer able to access the school, we are keen to establish our school as the grammar school of choice for the coast.”
Barton Court is part of the Barton Court Academy Trust, which also runs the Charles Dickens School in Broadstairs, and had 167 pupils from Whitstable and 226 from Herne Bay in October 2017, making up 43% of its school roll.
It says there is no further room for expansion on its Longport site, but that it has “always had a vision to provide much needed selective school places on the coast,” which would in turn free up additional selective places in the centre of Canterbury.
The new satellite would be part of Barton Court and run as one school, with students using facilities at both sites.
Faversham MP Helen Whately says she is backing the QEGS bid.
“Every parent wants the best for their child, and with its excellent academic record Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar is one of the most over-subscribed schools in Kent. As a result, children in some villages around Faversham are outside the catchment area, along with those in nearby towns,” she said.
“A satellite school would give more children the opportunity of the education that QEGS offers, along with reducing hours spent in buses and cars to schools further afield. It could offer more opportunities for students at QE in Faversham too.”
Rosie Duffield, the MP for Canterbury and Whitstable, said: “My office has already met with some members of the leadership team from QEGS as part of this consultation. We have also received documents from Barton Court.
“Of course I am aware that there is a massive squeeze on school places in the area and that many students, especially from Whitstable, face very long and expensive bus journeys to school if they receive a grammar place.
“I will be listening closely to parents and what they want as part of this consultation.”
Sir Roger Gale MP, whose North Thanet constituency includes Herne Bay, said: “I want a satellite grammar school to serve the coastal strip and I’m sure that either will be very capable of providing that service.
“There are 500 children just from Herne Bay who are bussed from the town to Faversham, Thanet and Canterbury. It’s ridiculous that all of those young people have to travel to three other towns to have the selective education they’ve qualified for and to which they’re entitled.”
Consultation events are being held by QEGS at the school on April 1, and April 3 at the Whitstable Umbrella Centre. Barton Court is holding an event on Tuesday, March 26, and is also accepting views via email at email@example.com.
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