The first new British grammar school in 50 years has been approved today in Kent, as it was agreed that an existing school could build an annexe several miles away.
Weald of Kent school in Tonbridge will open a girls annexe in Sevenoaks, Kent, with 450 places available allocated by academic selection. A further 90 places per year would be made available. It is expected that the school will open in September 2017.
This move comes after a long campaign by supporters of a new grammar school. In 1998, the Labour government passed laws which banned the creation of new grammar schools, as they are selective state schools. This didn't however eliminate the allowance for existing schools to expand if there is sufficient demand.
While this new initiative is widely accepted by many, the return of grammar schools does cause worry for some. Ministers are keen to ensure that the return of grammar schools does not drown out the education policy which promotes academies and free schools with the virtue of raising standards for all, rather than focusing on the most academically able pupils.
London mayor Boris Johnson has described the decline of the grammar school system as a "tragedy". Prime Minister David Cameron has previously said that "all good schools" should have the right to expand, including grammars, an assertion echoed by education secretary Nicky Morgan.
Andrew Shilling, of the Sevenoaks Grammar School Campaign, said the decision was a "victory for parent power". "Today's news is overdue recognition of the fact that a Sevenoaks grammar school is supported by the vast majority of local parents," he said. The campaign is calling for the legislation banning new grammar schools to be removed so that male as well as female pupils could attend the school on the new site.
Posted by Charlotte Michaels