Bennett Memorial seeks to expand to counter ‘extraordinary’ demand for places

    Extraordinary demand for school places has led a Tunbridge Wells secondary to consider offering 60 extra places to its yearly intake.
    Parents and students at Bennett Memorial, in Culverden Down, have been informed the governing board is looking at increasing Year 7 intake from 240 to 300 places from September 2019.
    A spokesman from the academy group Tenax Schools Trust, which manages Bennett Memorial, said: “Tunbridge Wells is experiencing a significant increase in demand for secondary school places.
    “There is an urgent need for additional secondary school provision and Kent County Council (KCC), as the local authority, has a statutory duty to ensure sufficient places are available.
    “They have asked Bennett to consider providing additional places by expanding the school from eight to ten forms.”
    At present the faith school has a maximum capacity of 1,200 but if the proposals go-ahead, the increase in students will have filtered through by 2023-24 to create a new maximum of 1,500.
    With an expected 12,960 homes scheduled to be built in Tunbridge Wells within the 2013-2033 period, there is forecast to be a shortfall of 857 school places in the town by the 2023-24 school year if no more places are added.
    According to the report, Bennett Memorial had been chosen because of its ethos and ‘outstanding’ Ofsted result plus Church of England schools have a track record of expanding to meet a community’s need.
    The school’s governing body is still in talks with the county council as to whether more infrastructure would be needed. Any decision to develop the site would require further planning consultations.
    A public meeting into the plans will continue until Monday, November 13.