A new coastal school should be open to ALL our children

If there’s any new secondary school for Herne Bay and Whitstable, then it should be open to all our children, not just the few who pass the Kent Test.

Kent County Council has decided we need a ‘satellite’ grammar school between Herne Bay and Whitstable. Two local grammar schools are now bidding for cash to open a school most local children can’t use.

Thanks to the 400+ people who signed our petition to oppose this ‘satellite’ plan. It’s pleasing that 110 of the signatures were from members of the public living in an address with a CT postcode, with many more from surrounding areas of Kent. It is clear that there is limited local support for a ‘satellite’ grammar school. We know most local parents prefer high-quality schools in Herne Bay and Whitstable that are open to ALL the children in our communities. Whitstable and Herne Bay schools already have successful ‘grammar streams’ for children who pass the Kent Test.

The consultation on the plans to build a new selective school on the coast have now closed. The Independent covered this story, pointing out the very worrying fact two local heads say another school will close if this ‘satellite’ school opens.

The Department for Education will consider the schools’ bids for funding and we’ll learn in the autumn whether the plan will go ahead. Thanks to everyone who signed and shared the petition, and took part in the consultations. We don’t need a new coastal grammar school – let’s hope this proposal is turned down.

Here are some common myths about grammar school places locally.

Myth: Children who pass the Kent Test need a grammar school place and they have no local provision.

Fact: There is excellent specialist provision for pupils who pass the test in local schools. Herne Bay High and The Whitstable School give priority to pupils who pass the Kent Test to join their ‘grammar streams.’ These give dedicated support to high attainers in schools that ensure choice for other parents. This means primary school friends can transfer to a secondary school together, whether or not the pass the Kent Test.

Myth: Grammar streams in non-selective schools are not as good as grammar schools.

Fact: The Canterbury Academy grammar stream achieved 98% 5 A*-Cs in its first year, beating many local grammars. Herne Bay High is in the top 5 schools for A level progress. The Whitstable Scool has an inspirational new head who has introduced debating, impressive speakers, and she plans to offer the International Baccalaureate, usually available in top independent schools. These schools offer triple science, languages, computer science, and exactly the same curriculum as selective schools. They have as much to offer as grammar schools without denying entry to 75% of local pupils.

Myth : There will be a shortage of selective school places soon.

Fact: 33% of secondary school places in Canterbury and Faversham are in grammar schools, but Kent County Council say just 25% of pupils should attend selective schools. Local grammars have been expanding and taking 50+ pupils a year without a test pass, while the Canterbury Head Teacher Appeal panel turns more ‘fail’ results to a ‘pass’ than any other panel in Kent! This is because there are so many grammar school places to fill. If we send a quarter of local children to grammar school instead of a third we will have a surplus of grammar school places for many years to come.

Myth: The coastal grammar school will operate like any regular selective school.

Fact: New selective schools are unlawful, so to dodge legal issues the new coastal grammar school will educate pupils in Faversham or Canterbury one day a week. This is a messy arrangement, and a waste of resources to not use this new school every day!

Myth: Grammar schools are all about giving parents choice.

Fact: Grammar schools reduce choice for most parents. Taking faith schools out of the picture (they’re not options for most) a Kent Test pass means a choice of seven local schools, while not having a test pass gives just four school choices. This is clear inequality of opportunity. Why should parents whose children do not sit, or pass, the Kent Test be given much less school choice than everyone else?

Myth: Grammar pupils are travelling too far to get to school.

Fact: More children travel to non-selective schools than to grammar schools from Herne Bay and Whitstable. It is natural for any parent to want to choose a school, rather than automatically going to the one school in town. Kent County Council appear to only care about school travel and choice for 25% parents, we think they should care about the 75% of local parents who consider using transport to widen school options.

Travel to school from Whitstable and Herne Bay (2017)

The consultation to decide on a new local school is just FOUR WEEKS LONG! This is clearly not designed to encourage debate about the school we need for our towns. It’s designed to rush this plan through without local discussion. Even if you’re not sure what you want please
email consultation@queenelizabeths.kent.sch.uk and
consultation@bartoncourt.org before April 17th, and tell the schools to hold off on their funding applications.

There is a £50 million fund every year for grammar schools to expand so we can explore options thoughtfully. We would like to run a survey for parents in Herne Bay and Whitstable to find out what parents really want from local secondary school provision. Our council have not asked what people want, they have told us what we need. Four weeks is not long enough to decide on an education establishment that should serve our towns for centuries.

All Herne Bay and Whitstable children deserve a great new secondary school.
The only way to ensure all local children have more choice is for any new school to have open admissions.

The academically able students in Whitstable and Herne Bay would perform just as highly in a good school with open admissions, and in these schools other children are successful too. This way there can be success for the many with support for the few who need it.

Phil Karnavas, Executive Principal, Canterbury Academy

There’s capacity within the grammar system already. This new school would be a phenomenal waste of over £20 million of taxpayers’ money. It would be a five-form entry school that’s bigger than most schools in the area. That’s not a ‘satellite’ it’s a new school being built by back-door methods for political gain. They’re using taxpayers’ money and it’s wrong.

Jon Boyes, head teacher Herne Bay High School

My research looked at more than 500,000 pupils and found pupils in grammar schools did just as well as expected, but no better, once background and attainment were taken into account. I see no need to expand a selective school system, and a ‘satellite’ grammar school will deprive other local schools of their most talented pupils, reducing cohesion, aspiration and self-esteem. This is nowhere near compensated for by the purported benefits.

Professor Stephen Gorard, Professor of Education and Public Policy, Durham University

My daughter achieved great GCSE results at the Whitstable School. She didn’t pass the Kent Test but ended up doing better than all her friends who did. Any of our kids might have a bad day and fail one short test – why would we want a school that judges them only on that? Local schools need to be open to all our children. A ‘satellite’ school will diminish the grammar school streams in local schools.

Whitstable Mum

We must stop banging on about grammar schools. They add little to the system and undermine the great things we’ve achieved by suggesting some kids are more “academic” than others. This simply isn’t true. Many great schools prove that grammar school-style education can successfully be accessed by all kids. Selection at 11 is unnecessary, divisive, and counter-productive.

Mark Lehain, founder and former Principle of Bedford free school

The ONLY way to stop this rushed plan, that reduces local school choice for most parents, is to tell the grammar schools you don’t want a ‘satellite’ school.

CLICK HERE for the Queen Elizabeth grammar school consultation or email consultation@queenelizabeths.kent.sch.uk by April 18th.

CLICK HERE for the Barton Court grammar school consultation or email consultation@bartoncourt.org by April 17th.