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Hopes of grammar school in Herne Bay or Whitstable bolstered

Long-held hopes of a satellite grammar school on the coast were bolstered this week by the revelation such a move is the “preferred option” of Kent County Council.

The authority’s cabinet member for education, Cllr Roger Gough, says an annex in Herne Bay or Whitstable of one of the four grammars in Canterbury and Faversham would provide 150 places in each year group.

He revealed it would likely be built in one of the coastal towns to cope with an expected increase in demand for places sparked by proposed housing developments across the district.

Roger Gough (6821961)
Roger Gough (6821961)

The alternative would be to expand one of the Simon Langton schools or Barton Court in Canterbury or Queen Elizabeth’s in Faversham.

Cllr Gough said: “The need for Year 7 places is expected to increase from 37 in 2019 to 133 by 2023.

“The preferred option for meeting this need would be to establish grammar provision in one of the coastal towns in the form of a satellite, with up to five forms of entry, of one of the four existing grammar schools in the area.”

In recent years there had been plans for Barton Court to open an annex on the former Herne Bay Golf Club site, but the proposals were shelved in 2014.

“There’s only one issue – we haven’t got any money..." Cllr Andrew Cook

Current government legislation prevents the opening of new grammar schools, but not the provision of a satellite site.

Herne Bay county councillor Andrew Cook, however, says there is one major stumbling block for such a move – funding.

“We are fighting very strongly at the moment and we are probably closer than we’ve ever been before to getting a grammar school over here on the coast,” he said.

“KCC has now said ‘we understand you need to have one over there’. That has been a stopper for years.

“There’s only one issue – we haven’t got any money. We’ve got to find a way to work with central government to find funding for the school.

Cllr Andrew Cook
Cllr Andrew Cook

“It’s a shame we didn’t do it five years ago because we would have had Barton Court over here by now.”

Cllr Cook says the search for a site to house the annex has already started. He believes it would have to be located “somewhere suitable for it to serve Herne Bay and Whitstable”.

“I think we have about 1,300 children from Herne Bay going to grammar schools,” Cllr Cook continued.

“We could put a big grammar school over here to reclaim all of them. Is it right for our children to travel three quarters of an hour both ways, while a Canterbury child can actually walk to school? They should be allowed to have a choice on the coast.”

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