Well it's not me! I thought the whole idea of a new grammar school in Sevenoaks was dead in the water, and I thought that was right (despite the fact that it would be more convenient for us, but still a relatively long journey). Kent is a large county. Wherever you put grammars (or any type of secondary school for that matter) people have to travel. At one point the 7oaks MP and head of a local primary was trying to argue that there were insufficient places because not everyone got a place on 1 March in the grammar school of 1st choice - rather than at a later date. The fact is that if everyone got a school of their first choice on 1 March there would be surplus places. There isn't a lot of public money around at the moment; getting a place on the 1st of March shouldn't surely be a priority.
Now the argument would appear to have changed from "there aren't enough grammar places for children from Sevenoaks" to "children are travelling too far from Sevenoaks". Well that is "true" from so many places round here (and presumably across Kent) that it couldn't possibly be sorted by starting up satellite grammars here there and everywhere. Lovely as that might be for those of us with potential grammar school children, there surely just isn't the money to do that? And if there is, aren't there other parts of the education system (not just grammars) that might deserve it?
To get round the fact that there can't be a new grammar school by dreaming up the idea of a satellite is to me such a bending of the rules it is silly. The only thing that will be a cost saving by having a satellite rather than a new school is management costs. However, can a school be as good if it is run by a senior management team who have to travel quite a long way between the schools they manage? And of course the main grammar school sites would each have fewer children on them if the children didn't travel from Sevenoaks, so it would just be increasing the cost of running the existing grammars by splitting children and staff over a vast distance. And how many satellites could a grammar have? A whole constellation?!!
In Sevenoaks there is a "new" academy, created by the merging of a boys non-selective and a girls non-selective. Due to the public funding crisis the sorts of money first hoped for have not been spent on the new academy on buildings etc. Three-quarters of the children in Sevenoaks are presumably non-selective so where's the campaign from these parents about spending money on their school rather than on a grammar school annex? The site on which the Sevenoaks campaigners is hoping their grammar school annex would be built is the site freed up by the merging of two schools into a new academy. Education in Sevenoaks might be improved all-round if instead money was poured into the local academy making it attractive enough to stop parents wishing to put their children on a bus to a far away grammar school and instead have them in the top sets at the academy. That would benefit all the children of Sevenoaks not just the 25% who pass the 11plus each year. But the academy parents are not going to be the campaigning type unfortunately.
It's presumably the same set of Sevenoaks parents who ran a campaign a while ago to stop the West Kent superselectives being superselective and prevent them taking children from over county boundaries. It would be so easy to get 1300 signatures - parents from a particular large primary school, plus the parents of children travelling to the various grammars from Sevenoaks - its doesn't make a campaign more persuasive to me. Neither does it show that there are sufficient children needing a grammar place located in Sevenoaks itself to justify the cost. Also, one has to remember that the distances quoted in the article are also in some ways misleading. The distance a child travels bears no relation to the time that the journey takes. It all depends on the roads, the traffic, the timetabling of the school buses etc. A relative of mine travels from Sevenoaks to a grammar school. It is no hardship; his school day is shorter than many children who go to closer schools as his bus travels down a very fast road, and it does not deposit him at school much earlier than he needs to be there. There are other children from other Kent towns travelling to other schools who have a much longer school day.
It will be interesting to see what happens. There are a lot of competing priorities for school funding in this area e.g. other towns that do not have a school at all, others who want to set up a free school on that empty site in Sevenoaks e.g. there's a group campaigning for a church school on that site, under the free school legislation.
When councils hold meetings like this for petitioners, why don't they open it up to all sides of an argument so that there can be a balanced debate? Any new school places (whether it is a new school or an annex) affects other schools and needs to be considered alongside other options. What's the point of a meeting just of the campaigners for a grammar school in Sevenoaks?