On Thursday 16 October, the same day the Kent Test results were released, the Secretary of State for Education approved the Weald of Kent Sevenoaks annexe to be sited next to Trinity School on the new Wildernesse site. Congratulations to Weald of Kent for jumping through the many legal loop holes necessary to make this dream a reality.
Since Nicky Morgan’s announcement on Thursday there has been a lot of commentary both for and against grammar schools and selective education – often based on peoples’ own experiences good or bad. It seems illogical to me to base an eduaction system on individual experiences.
Kent has a grammar school system in place that is not going to change any time soon. There are a shortage of grammar school places in West Kent, but particularly in Sevenoaks, due to population rises and increases in pressure from children from neighbouring authorities. If we want the pass mark to continue to be the top 25% that pass the Kent Test then more grammar school places have to be provided – or the pass mark will rise. Or even worse children that pass won’t be allocated a place at a grammar school.
The arguments in favour of the Sevenoaks Grammar Annexe are unique to our area and this decision does not automatically mean the opening of the floodgates for grammar schools across the country.
The debate over social mobility and the grammar school system rages all over the media. Evidence for working class kids making it good at grammar schools is limited and there is the argument that middle class parents can afford to tutor their children through the test. To these arguments I would say that good schools in comprehensive areas push up surrounding house prices so only middle class children can attend those schools; and the Kent Test is genuinely becoming more tutor-proof. Ask any child who sat it this year what they thought of the spacial awareness section!
Since the national devise of grammar schools, with the partial exception of Gordon Brown, all our Prime Ministers have been privately educated. Our Grammar School Prime Ministers such as Edward Heath, Margaret Thatcher and John Major seem to be a thing of the past. Even Jeremy Corbyn went to a private school. If grammar schools help middle class kids compete with the very wealthy – is that not a form of social mobility?
I believe the strongest agument of all for grammar schools is that they really stretch the most academic and force them to achieve all they can in a way that the comprehensive system can not. People don’t compete with themselves, they compete against others. With a school full of the most academic they strive to be the top. In a comprehensive school they can simply coast at the top with little effort. They will still do well – but could they do better? Teachers will tend to focus on boarderline children knowing the most academic will be OK.
However the grammar school debate continues to rage, and whoever wins the argument, we in Sevenoaks are very lucky to have increased parental and pupil choice. We now have the choice of two excellent non-selective schools in the Town: Trinity and Knole (both with grammar streams); current Year 5 girls and younger will have the choice of a local grammar school as well as the range of options in Dartford, Swanley, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.
Nicky Morgan’s decision has been great for choice in Sevenoaks. Thank you Nicky Morgan, Michael Fallon, KCC and all those that successfully campaigned for it.