Grammar ‘satellite’ could be operating illegally as it goes alone

Janet Downs's picture

The Weald of Kent Grammar School (WKGS) opened an ‘annexe’ in Sevenoaks in 2017.  It was suspected at the time that the annexe’s satellite status was a way of getting around the law which forbids the establishment of new selective schools.

When permission was given in 2015 for WKGS to expand, the then education secretary Nicky Morgan said the two sites would operate as a single school despite being nine miles apart.

But Schools Week reports that pupils at the annexe will now be taught separately.  They will only join WKGS pupils on extra-curricular days.

Lucy Powell, shadow education secretary in 2015, has said she will write to the present education secretary Gavin Williamson to express ‘real concerns’ that the annexe was ‘in fact an illegal grammar school’.

Schools Week says two further Kent grammar schools – Barton Court, Canterbury, and Queen Elizabeth’s, Faversham – have applied to open annexes.  It’s expected one will getpermission to open a satellite near Whitstable.  A decision is expected in the autumn.

Dr Nuala Burgess of Comprehensive Future said any decision about further grammar annexes should be deferred until the operation of the WKGS satellite is properly investigated.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders asked for ‘clarity’ about expansion and what happens when a satellite becomes in effect a new school.

A Department for Education spokesperson said the DfE was ‘content’ that the WKGS annexe continued to operate ‘within the criteria for expansion’.

It is becoming increasingly obvious that setting up annexes to existing grammar schools is a method of increasing the number of selective schools by the back door.


UPDATE 14 September 08.21:  Article now includes link to Schools Week article which was not available on line when article was written.

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Mr_Chas's picture
Fri, 13/09/2019 - 15:51

Great initiative. Let’s have a LOT more satellite grammar schools in London Boroughs. Those in Sutton & Bexley could easily do this #grammarschoolforwoolwich

Peter Read's picture
Tue, 17/09/2019 - 23:15

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 18/09/2019 - 08:00

Thanks, Peter, for the alternative view arguing that it's only right that grammars should be allowed to expand in a selective area if extra places are needed.  Grammar academies have always been able to expand by increasing their PAN.  Bourne Grammar in Lincolnshire did this as soon as conversion was given the go-ahead.  It will accommodate around 1700 pupils when the increased numbers reach Year 13.  This expansion has had the effect of creaming even more pupils from neighbouring counties: Rutland and Peterborough.

The argument here is that in setting up an annexe several miles away it circumvents the law forbidding the establishment of new grammars.  This is a valid point if disputed.  It would be interesting if the case went to court.  However, I wouldn't go so far as to label Comprehensive Future's argument as 'fake news'.

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