Sunday, 25 March 2012

What is meant by an Annexe?

On Thursday KCC will debate the petition for grammar school annexes for Sevenoaks.  What exactly is an annexe, how could it operate, and which schools might be involved?

What is an annexe?
An annexe is created when an existing school enlarges its capacity through expanding its premise to an additional site.  In such a situation the regulations state that consultation is required and that the consultation proposal must describe why an additional site is necessary.  There appears to be no test case for how far away an annexe may be created, and still be deemed an annexe rather than a new school.  For many an annexe implies a site close to the main school, dealing with overspill.  Can a remote site, with independent facilities, infrastructure and staffing be regarded as an annexe?

How could it operate?
The West Kent Learning Forum is a loose knit group of head-teachers from the 17 secondary schools in West Kent.  This area covers Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells, Paddock Wood and Cranbrook.  Following a meeting with KCC on 26th January at which the heads were asked if they would support grammar school annexes in Sevenoaks, several of those head teachers have made public comments.

Stuart Reeves, head teacher of Mascalls School in Paddock Wood and chairman of West Kent Learning Forum, said his fellow forum members were "wary" of the prospect of a new grammar school in Sevenoaks.   He added: "I'm not sure the appetite for it exists and it may be that it brings schools to overcapacity."

Ian Bauckham, the head of Bennett Memorial Diocesan School, Tunbridge Wells who is not being asked to create an annexe of his school, has said "an annexe to a grammar school some miles away from the "parent" school would cause many practical difficulties."

Robert Masters, head of The Judd school in Tonbridge which operates a super-selective policy, and is not being asked to create an annexe has said that Kent County Council's preferred solution of creating an annexe or two annexes to an existing grammar school "is not immediately attractive to most head teachers for a number of reasons".  He added: "Clearly if new provision was to be made in Sevenoaks then a new standalone grammar school focussing on Sevenoaks would be the best solution, but that is not permissible in law at the present time."

The head of Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys, John Harrison, who is likely to be asked to create an annexe of his school to accommodate Sevenoaks boys has said: "Any increase in provision needs to be very carefully considered.  I think it is wise for the local authority to consider a range of possible options to meet the increased demand and grammar school provision should be a consideration within that.  I am aware a Kent County Council debate is scheduled for the end of the month and, following that, some clarity over the way forward might exist."

From a day to day perspective, the questions on how an annexe might be run are endless? 

  • How often will the head be on site?
  • Will the Senior Leadership Team have to spend time travelling between sites?
  • How will children wishing to participate in school sports teams get to training sessions and at which site will they occur?
  • Will existing staff move to the annexe or will it be staffed by new recruits?
  • Will existing Sevenoaks children at the "parent school" be able to move to the annexe or will it open purely for year 7 admissions in its first year?
  • In 2011 63 Boys and 68 Girls accepted places at the Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells grammar schools.  KCC's proposal is for 2 forms of boys and 2 forms of girls, ie 60 each.  So what will hapen to the remaining children, and how will population increases impact on this?
  • Will staff work across both annexes or will there need to be up to 10 staff (to cover all subjects) for each annexe ie 20 staff for 120 pupils in year 1?
Which schools might be involved?
In accordance with the Government’s position that there should be no increase in academic selection, the expansion of grammar schools ... [is] excluded from capital incentive schemes.  The consensus is that a secondary school that is a selective Academy (ie a grammar school that has converted to an Academy) would be unlikely to be able to open an annexe as its funding is from central government, rather than KCC.

The only boys grammar school in Tunbridge Wells or Tonbridge that does not super-select is Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Boys.  The other school most likely to be considered for a girl's annexe is Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar.  Both of these schools are about 11 miles away.

Weald of Kent which is slightly nearer has already coverted to an Academy

Newsted Woods and St Olaves in Orpington are both super-selective operating their own entrance exams, and outside of the Kent authority.

Further afield, there are several grammar schools in Dartford and Wilmington, which is about 13 miles away;  Dartford Grammar School for Boys is an Academy; Dartford Grammar School for Girls operates a catchment system with defined areas, and in the case that it is over-subscribed from these areas, awards places to the highest scores.  Wilmington Grammar School for Boys and Wilmington Grammar School for Girls are both Academies.

Maidstone which is about 16 miles away has Invicta Grammar School (an Academy), Oakwood Park (an Academy), Maidstone Grammar School for Boys which has complicated oversubscription criteria that gives priority to boys scoring a total of over 390 in the Kent tests and living in named parishes and Maidstone Grammar School for Girls

Finally, Cranbrook School, in Cranbrook, some 25 miles away, the only co-educational grammar school in the area admits at 13+ rather than 11+ and has its own selection test.  Rumours are circulating that it may be considering admitting from Year 7 instead of Year 9.

KCC is to debate the petition for a grammar school in Sevenoaks on 29th March.  Whilst it may be legally possible to create an annexe and there is no doubt that many Sevenoaks families would like grammar provision in the town, legally this is uncharted territory.  Is an annexe some 11 miles away just wishful thinking?  If it can be created, is the proposition compelling enough to persuade head teachers and parents that it can work?

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