by Peter Read
Education Secretary Damian Hinds has today said he wants to create up to 16,000 new grammar school places.
He has announced a £50 million Selective Schools Expansion Fund, having in the past enthusiastically supported more grammar schools.
In the last year or so three Kent grammar schools have made enquiries to the Department for Education about the possibility of opening annexes.
One of them is Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury, which is mixed sex.
I have long followed its proposals. They go back as far as the 1980s when Kent County Council considered relocating the whole school to the coast at Herne Bay or Whitstable.
More recently, there was a plan to move the school to Herne Bay in 2013. The project was abandoned in 2014 following opposition from parents in Canterbury.
But Mr Hinds’s announcement means this is very much on the agenda again.
Furthermore, the school is in the process of a major building scheme on its site to accommodate a recent expansion of 150 pupils.
It clearly feels capable of taking on new challenges.
There is no doubt an annex would be popular with families in Herne Bay and Whitstable, but the children would be largely drawn from Barton Court main school itself.
The Simon Langton Girls’ Grammar School and the Simon Langton Boys Grammar School for Boys are already heavily oversubscribed. This would weaken both schools as there is no overall shortage of grammar places in the Canterbury district.
Barton Court is also facing its own issues, including a surplus of grammar school places in Canterbury. It loses quarter of its year 11 pupils before the sixth form on a regular basis.
In his interview with the Daily Telegraph Damian Hinds said: “What keeps me awake at night is the knowledge that what we do here can have a significant impact on what happens in the classroom, for the future of our nation, for the prosperity of the next generation and for the good of our society. That’s a huge responsibility.”
All this means that the possibility of a coastal grammar school in the Canterbury district may one day become a reality.
Peter Read is a former secondary school headmaster who now operates an independent advice service for parents in Kent and Medway. He specialises in school appeals and admissions. For more information visit his website.