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Medway Council to lobby for new grammar school

ByDean Kilpatrick, local democracy reporter

A council is to lobby central government for a new selective school in its region.

Conservative members on Medway Council have supported a motion which will see the authority “make the case” for a new grammar or satellite school to the Department for Education.

The law currently prevents new grammar schools from being created, but extra capacity – and new schools, according to opponents – can be provided via the controversial “annexe” route.

Medway Council will lobby the government for a new selective school in the Towns
Medway Council will lobby the government for a new selective school in the Towns

It is hoped any new facilities will ensure 25% of the area’s secondary provision remains selective.

The government recently announced a second £50 million fund for grammar school expansions with applications expected to show how they would improve social mobility.

It followed several bids from Kent schools for a share of a first £50m fund, where only Rochester Grammar School was successful in applying for some of the cash.

Cllr Martin Potter (Con) said: “We have provided 650 additional places at our existing grammar schools – which are now reaching their ideal capacity – which means one of two things.

“We need either a grammar or satellite school – or we reduce that 25% provision. This administration is not willing to reduce it because the benefits are clear.

“Students from the most deprived backgrounds might do better in a grammar school setting compared to another, and we need to ensure provision remains in place for those students regardless of income and background.”

The council decided at a meeting on Thursday night it will also write to Medway’s three MPs in the hope of gaining their support for the proposal.

Labour abstained from voting on the motion after its own proposal to have a “full review of secondary education provision” was rejected by the ruling party.

The government is inviting bids for a £50m fund to expand grammar schools. Stock image
The government is inviting bids for a £50m fund to expand grammar schools. Stock image

Cllr Clive Johnson (Lab) told colleagues: “If we’re short of school places, we need to look at the system as a whole – the academically able, those whose talents lie in other areas, and those with special needs.”

The Tories were also accused of “picking and choosing” its support of the Towns’ schools, while opposition councillors also bemoaned the loss of £26 million central government funding for education in Medway.

Cllr Vince Maple (Lab) added: “We on this side want to make sure all of our schools succeed and that’s what this amendment does.

“It gets us to a position as a council to make sure our secondary provision is the very best it can be – and that’s despite the cuts year-on-year over the last nine years.”

The proposal was rejected however, with Cllr Andrew Mackness (Con) described Labour’s position of “not supporting grammar schools” as “shameful”, insisting an annual sufficiency report already ensured non-selective provision was available.

He added: “There is no current mechanism that is clearly understood to ensure there will be sufficient grammar school places in Medway in the future. We want to ensure we do that, we want to ensure there is a mechanism put in place.”

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