Campaigners warn of ‘dystopian future’ as academy trust plans to convert Kent non-selective into grammar school
PUBLISHED: 09:09 21 September 2016 | UPDATED: 09:09 21 September 2016
The Kent Education Network fears for children’s future following Swale Academy Trust’s proposals to convert Meopham School
Campaigners have warned plans to convert a non-selective school in north Kent into a grammar is an indication of “a dystopian future”.
Swale Academy Trust is proposing to bring the 11-plus exam to Meopham School near Gravesend - one of its three secondary schools in the county - under new government proposals.
Theresa May aims to create “social mobility” by requiring new or expanding grammars to take a proportion of pupils from lower income households, so that selective education is not reserved for those with the means to move into a catchment area or pay for tuition to pass the test.
Alternatively, the measures would require such schools to establish a new, high quality, non-selective free school, set up or sponsor a primary feeder school in an area with a high density of lower income households or sponsor a currently underperforming non-selective academy.
However, the Kent Education Network has slammed the plans, and insists the education of those who don’t pass the test will suffer further as a result.
In a statement released this week, the campaigners said: “We believe that this is a business-based decision, rather than one based on the best interests of local children.
“In announcing the initiative, the government said they would judge academy trusts by their results and - as grammar schools are assured of good results – such a proposal is bound to benefit any trust that includes a grammar in its portfolio of schools.
“Swale’s bid is likely to start a gold rush to convert schools to grammar schools if Theresa May has her way and the law is changed. This trust is clearly getting in early before other schools propose a grammar school in the area.
“It highlights the fact that there is no consideration of how these proposals would limit school choice for children who fail the eleven plus.
“Meopham School is currently operating successfully as a school for children of all abilities.
“In fact, the school has better results for its high achieving pupils than both the local grammar schools in Gravesend.
“There is no clear idea of how a trust like Swale could ever use a grammar school in Meopham to raise standards in its other schools in Sittingbourne, Ashford and Maidstone.
“The plan to convert Meopham School looks like a cynical plan to benefit from the new powers proposed for grammars; it is disingenuous to suggest this could benefit local children.
“These are worrying times for all-ability schools in Kent and for any child that might be denied a grammar education.”
The move comes after Kent County Council announced its support for a new boys’ grammar in Sevenoaks, 12 months after then-education secretary Nicky Morgan gave the green light to plans to develop an ‘annexe’ for girls.
However, with selective places in the county rising from 25 per cent to 30 per cent, leading to the closure of four non-selective schools in the last two years, the KEN questions the intentions of KCC.
“The county council appears to have no concern for the limited choices facing families whose children do not pass - or don’t wish to take - the Kent Test,” a spokesperson added.
“While one third of the county’s schools are grammars, many faith schools are beyond the reach of ordinary families because admissions depend on church attendance.
“This often leaves a choice between just one or two schools - often those with poor results or reputations.
“No one seems to be looking out for the needs of ordinary families in Kent.
“The logic of such a system is about achieving outstanding results in selective schools, measured against a national rather than local standard, while the majority of children fall by the wayside.
“This government’s plans can only give licence to such a dystopian future.”