Tonbridge-based Weald of Kent Grammar School will open its controversial, but much anticipated Sevenoaks annexe this September. Eileen Leahy toured the new site and spoke exclusively to the school’s Chairman of Governors, David Bower, about how the two locations, with a nine-mile distance between them, will manage to work in tandem
IN 2015, Kent County Council [KCC] was given the go-ahead to build a brand new grammar annexe in Sevenoaks, for both boys and girls.
Despite the fact it has met various stumbling blocks along the way, including the fact a suitable boys’ grammar partner has not been found yet, the female provision in the equation, which will be run by the Weald of Kent Grammar School, is set to open this September.
Construction on the new annexe, so called because it’s an extension of an already existing educational establishment and not a new school, began in May 2016 with a £16million grant from KCC.
Its location is on the former site of the Wildernesse School in Seal Hollow Road, which is also occupied by the recently built Trinity School, a co-ed Christian comprehensive. It will open its doors to three forms of Year 7 entry (90 pupils in total) in the new academic year.
At full capacity, The Weald of Kent element will be able to take 450 girls. Its facilities include a new lecture theatre, 31 classrooms with science, art and technology labs, a café and sixth-form provision.
The annexe students will have use of a shared all-weather pitch and tennis and netball courts, together with a large sports hall and dance studio. The playing fields will be shared with Trinity School.
Last week, the Times was invited by the Weald of Kent’s Chairman of Governors, David Bower, for a tour of the site. He explained how the unique opportunity of having an extension to a school whose location is nine miles away in Tonbridge came about after a petition was launched.
“Some residents in Sevenoaks felt there was a need for a grammar school offering in the town. As a result of that, KCC had a debate which was open to the public and there was overwhelming support for it.”
There are presently no parties interested in running the boys’ element of the build. However, that could change with the announcement by the Chancellor in last week’s budget that there would be more funding for grammar schools.
“At the moment, we are all set for September,” confirmed Mr Bower. “We will start with three Year 7 form intakes and build, going up to year 11. There will probably be a sixth-form provision as well.”
He admitted there’s still a lot of work to do and that the school is recruiting. Many teachers at the Weald of Kent’s Tonbridge site will teach in Sevenoaks, too.
“We’re confident that we will be mirroring in Sevenoaks what we have over in Tonbridge. That was the deal and we have to make sure we are running one school. The children won’t be going backwards and forwards every day, but they will attend the Tonbridge site once every fortnight.”
He revealed that prospective pupils won’t be able to specify a particular site, but said the school will do their best to ‘satisfy preferences’.
“We’ll have one curriculum, one governing body and one leadership team. All these things are very critical. We are working on the timetable and making sure everything works. It’s all terribly exciting.”