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Proposal for Sevenoaks grammar school annexe submitted to secretary of state for education Nicky Morgan by Weald of Kent Grammar School Academy Trust

Work is ready to start on a new grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks - the first in 20 years.

The Weald of Kent Grammar School Academy Trust has now submitted its proposal to develop the new annexe, in line with the requirements identified by Kent County Council (KCC), to the secretary of state for education, Nicky Morgan.

Planning consent to build the school on the old Wildernesse site in Seal Hollow Road has already been obtained.

An artist's impression of what the Sevenoaks Grammar annexe and Trinity School would look like in Sevenoaks
An artist's impression of what the Sevenoaks Grammar annexe and Trinity School would look like in Sevenoaks

Contractors are ready to start work, subject to the secretary of state's sign-off.

KCC said it understands the submission by the all-girls Weald of Kent is in line with the regulations set up by the coalition government to establish the new development.

While it is illegal to build new grammar schools in the UK, the government encourages successful schools to expand, meaning it would be possible to open an annexe.

Leader of Kent County Council Paul Carter said: “I am delighted that we now have a robust proposal to put to the Secretary of State for her sign-off.

“School rolls are rising dramatically and we must be allowed to expand grammar schools in line with all other categories and types of school.

“This is good news for parents with daughters and we will continue to work in earnest to find a solution for their sons.

“I am also delighted by the support from Theresa May and Michael Fallon for the establishment of further grammar school provision in their constituencies.”

Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon
Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon

This is the latest step in the council's bid for a grammar school which is backed by strong support from local residents and campaign groups.

Andrew Shilling of the Sevenoaks Grammar School Campaign said: “The absence of a Sevenoaks grammar school has a profoundly negative effect on local children. Every day, over 1,100 Sevenoaks children must travel to grammar schools in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells, a round trip of up to 25 miles.

"From a young age, many of these children spend up to two hours commuting each day. This negatively impacts on their ability to learn, on their opportunities for hobbies and sport, on their opportunities to develop friendships, and on the time they spend with their families.

“Whilst today’s grammar annexe plans are very welcome, excluding boys from the annexe is very unfortunate. In recent years, Sevenoaks boys have found it harder to access grammar school places than Sevenoaks girls, and the failure of a boys’ grammar school to come forward to sponsor a boys’ annexe has left Sevenoaks boys high and dry.

“I am delighted to support this proposal from the Weald of Kent Grammar School for a satellite annexe in Sevenoaks" - Michael Fallon...

"We are therefore lobbying the Government, through our MP Michael Fallon, to abolish the ridiculous law introduced by Tony Blair’s Government that prohibits the establishment of new grammar schools. Only this law change will enable boys to attend the Sevenoaks grammar annexe.

“We fervently hope that Nicky Morgan will reach a much quicker decision on this year’s resurrected plans, so that building work can commence by January and the school can then open as planned."

A public consultation last year recorded 2,068 people in favour of the annexe and only 41 people against, "today’s news is therefore an important step in the right direction," Mr Shilling added.

Sevenoaks MP Mr Fallon said: “I am delighted to support this proposal from the Weald of Kent Grammar School for a satellite annexe in Sevenoaks.

“It remains deeply unfair to parents in my constituency that we are the only area in Kent not to have a grammar school. This proposal will not only go some way to eliminating this injustice, but also produce the additional places we need in west Kent.

“I hope the Secretary of State makes a speedy decision.”

Weald of Kent Girls Grammar
Weald of Kent Girls Grammar

However, not everyone thinks this development is a good idea. Claire Leigh, parliamentary candidate for Tonbridge and Malling said: "The proposed new Sevenoaks Grammar Annexe seems an unnecessary addition to local secondary education provision in the area.

"The Knole Academy has a highly rated Grammar Stream and has benefited from multi-million pound investments in the past two years. The Knole Academy Grammar Stream offers all the benefits of a diverse and comprehensive learning environment while also catering to different abilities.

"I would therefore like the Secretary of State to carefully consider the value for money of this proposal."

Developer Bond Bryan is working with Kent County Council and construction partner Willmott Dixon Construction to deliver the £30m education campus.

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