Grammar School Response from Secretary of State for Education

The Secretary of State for Education, Rt Hon Michael Gove MP has responded to the letter from Michael Fallon MP which was urging speedy decision in relation to the provision of a grammar school in Sevenoaks.

Responding to Michael’s letter, Mr. Gove said:  “I understand the difficulty pupils and families face in securing a suitable school place, and the distance many have to travel. Primary legislation prohibits the introduction of new selective schools and we must judge the proposals carefully to test whether they represent new schools or expansions.

The Education Funding Agency (EFA) is assessing the proposals and will present its findings to ministers shortly. We will notify each school in writing as soon as a decision has been reached.  In reaching our decision, we will consider all the evidence that has been presented through the process and in correspondence with each academy trust.”

Commenting on his reply, Mr. Fallon said:  “I am continuing to pursue this at every opportunity.  There is no indication at the moment of when a decision will be announced, but I am urging all parties to a conclusion as soon as possible for the sake of our young students in Sevenoaks.”

Letter from Rt Hon Michael Fallon MP urgently seeking a swift decision for Sevenoaks

7th October 2013

Rt Hon Michael Gove MP
Secretary of State for Education

Dear Secretary of State

I write in relation to your pending decision regarding the proposals for a grammar school in my Sevenoaks constituency currently submitted, from the Valley Invicta Academy Trust and from the Weald of Kent Grammar Academy Trust.

Sevenoaks is the only major town in Kent without a grammar school. This is a long running grievance amongst the Sevenoaks parents and pupils. It means that, despite living in a county that has grammar schools, Sevenoaks children not only find it harder to secure a place but, if they do, often have to travel considerable distances to take it up. Kent County Council’s figures from 2009 show that 91 out of 253 pupils who passed the 11+ in the Sevenoaks areas did not get any of their four preferences on National Offer Day. These children will have been given an alternative offer but typically one many miles away from their homes. Whilst many children do get their first choices on appeal, this is only often after many stressful months of challenges to the system.

Recent figures from Kent County Council show that 1,151 students who live in south Sevenoaks, travel to selective schools in Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells or further afield, as there is no selective provision in Sevenoaks. Moreover, as the number of Year 7 pupils increase in these schools, the application of the distance criteria through the admissions process will result in selective provision becoming increasingly less accessible for Sevenoaks south students.

Non-selective schools are, thanks to your funding, able to expand to meet increased demand. It cannot be fair that those choosing selective schools are discriminated against because the system cannot similarly accommodate them.

It is clear to me that the long-term solution is to provide more grammar school places locally to meet this demand. As nearby grammar schools are already full, the obvious solution is to provide new places in Sevenoaks itself.

I urge you to make a speedy decision.