First new grammar school set to be approved

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan is expected to confirm plans for Weald of Kent School in Tunbridge to build an ‘annexe’ several miles away, following months of legal wrangling.

The girls’ school will accommodate 450 places, allocated by academic selection. In 1998, Tony Blair’s Labour party passed laws banning the creation of new grammar schools. However, another law allowing existing grammars to expand due to sufficient demand is set to be exploited by Weald of Kent School.

The school is due to open in September 2017, after a long campaign by supporters of a grammar school to get the backing of ministers, which has already seen proposals rejected.

Andrew Shilling, of the Sevenoaks Grammar School Campaign, said: "Today's news is overdue recognition of the fact that a Sevenoaks grammar school is supported by the vast majority of local parents."

Following the granting of planning permission, Kent County Council has been quick to encourage opinion that it will remain one school, just on two different sites.

Paul Carter, lead of Kent County Council, said: "If you can't expand on-site you have to expand elsewhere, and that's all we have done in this case."

Labour described the decision as a ‘hugely backward step’.

Shadow Education Secretary Lucy Powell has said: "They [grammar schools] do not increase equality of opportunity, they make it worse. Tiny numbers of children from disadvantaged backgrounds pass their tests because they are the preserve of the privately tutored.

"That's why Ofsted and educational experts are against their expansion. People have a romantic view of what the grammar school system is like but its just not the same any more."

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