COUNTY education chiefs have confirmed a major U-turn on the future of Thanet’s two grammar schools, saying they will be now merged on one site.
Kent County Council says it is to set out proposals for the amalgamation of Chatham House boys grammar school and Clarendon House girls grammar school in Ramsgate. It is not yet clear where any new school will be located.
Education chiefs insist they will look at ways in which single-sex schooling can be retained in some way under its plans but the about-turn will be an embarrassment. KCC publicly committed to maintain both schools on their existing sites just a few months ago.
In a statement, the county council said the Government had indicated it would not support its proposal to rebuild two grammar schools in Ramsgate on their existing sites through the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.
Education officials have told KCC the schools are too small and, in the case of Clarendon House, spread over too many sites. As a result, the millions of pounds needed for redevelopment would not be granted unless the two schools were on the same site.
In a statement, Cllr Mark Dance (Con), KCC’s cabinet member for schools organisation, said: "We will be discussing the way forward with the governing bodies of the two schools over the next few weeks, taking account of the issues emerging from our dialogue with Government. Our ultimate objective is to achieve the best possible deal for students."
He added: "I believe that we can bring forward proposals, which will secure the investment we are seeking and protect the quality and diversity of local provision, including single-sex education, within the context of a single site option. To that end I remain very optimistic about the future."
The Kent Messenger Group reported how the option of a merger was being reconsidered in November.
Declining secondary school numbers in Thanet have already prompted KCC to propose merging Hereson School for girls and the Ellington School for girls.
KCC is likely to face a hostile reaction in some quarters and if a merger is planned, it will face claims of a U-turn. It will also raise speculation about whether other grammar schools could be merged.