Published: 15:40, 01 December 2021
| Updated: 15:59, 01 December 2021
A school trust has published plans to admit female students across all years at an academy.
Hayesbrook Academy, in Tonbridge, already accepts boys and girls at its sixth form, but now Leigh Academies Trust (LAT), wants to extend that to Year 7 and above.
The secondary school is one of just two boys’ non-selective schools in Kent, and if the plans are approved, its name would be changed to Leigh Academy Tonbridge, from 2023.
LAT, which took over running Hayesbrook Academy, in Brook Street, in September, is holding a six-week consultation on the plans, to hear people's thoughts.
There are currently 405 pupils in Year 7-11, and there is no intention to change the number admitted to the academy overall, with 151 students per year group.
If approved renovations will be made to the school to make it ready to admit girls from 2023.
This will include modernised toilets and changing facilities. The curriculum and staffing structures will be adapted to make them fit for purpose for a new intake of pupils, LAT says.
Boys already admitted to the academy will continue to be taught in single gender classes.
According to LAT, Hayesbrook is running at under half capacity overall, resulting in a "very tight budget."
To avoid annual deficits, Hayesbrook has required additional funding from Kent County Council which is not given to other schools and is not guaranteed from year to year.
In the academic year 2020-21, this stood at an extra £297,000.
A tight budget also makes it much more difficult to provide the full range of curricular opportunities available to pupils in more average-sized schools.
The trust says that problems with attracting sufficient numbers of pupils have occurred despite Tonbridge providing enough students to ensure that all of its schools are largely full.
A small surplus of places exists every year up to 2027, averaging 4.5% more places available than are expected to be required. However, this is not out of line with most other areas of Kent, the trust says.
If nothing changes, over half of those surplus places are forecast to sit within Hayesbrook, meaning the majority of the available capacity will be inaccessible to girls without alteration to Hayesbrook’s admission arrangements.
You can take part in the consultation by clicking here.