The Daily Mail reports that Cllr Mike Whiting, Kent County Council's Cabinet Member for Education, is meeting headmasters of its grammar schools this week to discuss the opening of what would effectively be the first new grammar school for 50 years. The new school will officially be a "satellite" of an existing grammar school – but taking 120 pupils in each year it sounds as though it will be as large as the mothership. Education Secretary Michael Gove has changed the rules to allow more grammar schools places in areas where grammar schools already operate and where the population has increased.
Campaigning parent Caroline Watson's son Patrick passed the 11-plus but has to go ten miles away to Tunbridge Wells for a grammar school education.
‘It’s ludicrous you have to put your child through the tests with no guarantee of a place and even
then if they get one, they have to travel 12 or 15 miles every day.’
‘It is a wonderful school, but he has been taken away from his friendship groups and has to travel nearly an hour each way by bus.
‘My hope is by the time my daughter Emily is 11 she will be able to walk to a school in Sevenoaks.’
Michael Fallon, the Conservative MP for Sevenoaks, said:
"This is not an ideological issue. Kent has a duty to provide enough secondary places."
The Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne announced in the autumn statement that there would be 12 new selective free schools specialising in maths. Thankfully the Conservative Party does seem to be edging away from the highly damaging anti selection bigotry put forward by David Willetts in opposition and embracing a more open minded pragmatic approach based on evidence. Northern Ireland indicates they push up standards generally.
There is also the political context of the broad cross party support for grammar schools among the electorate.
Michael Pyke, of the Campaign for State Education, says that the 1,300 parents in Sevenoaks who signed the petition calling for more places "are the ones who think their children will benefit by getting grammar places. What about the ones who don’t?" The ones that don't may well benefit from a proposed Christian free school which would be non-selective. But then Mr Pyke probably opposes that too.