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Grammar schools in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge could be expanded

by Jon Bond

Grammar schools in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge could be expanded

Image: Weald of Kent Annexe, which opened in Sevenoaks last year 

Headteachers have cautiously welcomed a government grant that could allow grammar schools to expand.

The Department for Education has pledged £50million to create more spaces in selective state schools.

This could see England’s 163 grammar schools given around £300,000 each in a move ministers say ‘will offer more choice’ for parents.

Weald of Kent Grammar School was opened as an Annexe in 2017

Headteacher, Maureen Johnson, welcomes the government backing.

Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge opened an annexe in Sevenoaks last year and its Headteacher, Maureen Johnson, commented on last week’s announcement.

She said: “I am pleased to hear the Government is still committed to increasing parental choice through offering grammar schools the chance to expand.

“Governors at the school are absolutely behind the need for grammar schools to encourage students from all backgrounds to see a grammar school education as a real option.”

For grammars to take on more pupils they will have to submit plans setting out how they will boost the numbers of disadvantaged pupils they admit.

Critics have argued that selective education hinders social mobility and does not benefit the education of pupils.

Mrs Johnson added that the announcement comes in midst of a ‘prolonged period of underfunding’.

“The announcement fails to address the immediate and pressing issues that all schools, primary, secondary and special face which is to manage inadequate budgets whilst still trying to deliver the best education possible.”

The announcement follows news that Kent County Council is looking to create openings at five schools to meet a capacity need, with hundreds of homes set to be built in West Kent in the next 15 years.

County Hall reported in December last year that more than £25million had been set aside for this. 

Edward Wesson, Headmaster of The Skinners’ School in Tunbridge Wells, said: “It is a bit odd hearing this announcement in the context of basic needs expansion of places in West Kent.

“Over recent years, that has included grammar school expansion.

“As a result I think this £50million pot is irrelevant to Kent, so, as much as I would like to attract more money, I doubt it will mean much to us as a school.

“However we have opened up our admissions to pupils on Free School Meals by prioritising their admission to the school and will continue to do so and to work with other schools locally as well.”