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Government to have final say over Co-ed decision for Chatham Grammar, Holcombe Grammar, and Fort Pitt Grammar School

The government will have the final say over whether several single-sex grammar schools can start admitting both boys and girls.

The South East Advisory board, part of the Department for Education (DfE), has deferred a decision about whether three Medway grammar schools should become mixed-sex.

Holcombe Grammar School in Chatham is a boys only school currently
Holcombe Grammar School in Chatham is a boys only school currently

The board met on April 18 and discussed plans for girls' schools Fort Pitt Grammar and Chatham Grammar, as well as Holcombe Grammar, a boys' school, to go co-educational.

But ultimately it decided the issue should be “escalated” to the Minister for Schools, Damian Hinds MP (Con) for a decision.

Notes from the meeting say board members asked whether alternative proposals had been considered, discussed local feeling towards the changes and the requirement for well-managed stakeholder communication, as well as the level of consultation undertaken and the performance of the schools.

When asked for further details on the decision made, and when the minister might consider the proposals and decide on whether the schools should remain single-sex or go mixed, the DfE said they did not comment on individual cases.

Plans to turn the three single-sex academies into co-educational schools were first suggested in April 2022 and approved, with the change originally intended to come into effect in September this year.

Fort Pitt Grammar school. Picture: Barry Crayford
Fort Pitt Grammar school. Picture: Barry Crayford

The reasoning for the move was to provide more spaces in the Towns’ selective schools for boys as there were said to be not enough girls to fill the number of spaces allocated to them.

Currently, once Medway children have been offered their school places, the additional girls’ grammar school places are offered to pupils who live outside of Medway.

It is hoped the proposal to create more co-educational schools would mean more children from the Towns could be offered a place at a local selective school.

However, Peter Read, a former grammar school head teacher and Kent education expert, previously criticised the plans, disputing a shortage of places for boys and opposing the scheme.

Following consultations in 2022, the DfE intervened in July last year and postponed any decision on the matter.

Further consultation about the plans was done in December last year and January this year.

This also delayed the possible starting date of the mixing back to September 2025 if approved.

Chatham Grammar School for girls is one of the schools which may go co-educational
Chatham Grammar School for girls is one of the schools which may go co-educational

Holcombe Grammar and Fort Pitt Grammar School have published some updates around the responses from parents which they said were generally positive, but limited in terms of the number of responses.

The South East Advisory board has the power to make a determination on the scheme but decided not to make a decision on the proposals and have referred it to the relevant government minister.

No date has been set for when the issue will be looked at, or when a verdict will be made.

Medway has six grammar schools, three for girls, two for boys and one is co-educational.

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