Education secretary Nicky Morgan has defended claims her party has made a U-turn on its stance on selective schools after allowing a grammar school to expand on to a new site.
In a written Parliamentary statement this morning, Ms Morgan confirmed Weald of Kent Grammar School, in Tonbridge, would be allowed to open a new annexe on a site nearly nine miles away in Sevenoaks.
The controversial decision was believed to have come directly from No 10.
It has sparked fierce criticism from Labour and unions, who pointed to pledges by both Cameron and Morgan against new grammar schools, including Ms Morgan saying she is “resistant to selective education”
But Ms Morgan wrote today: “It does not reflect a change in this Government’s position on selective schools. Rather it reaffirms our view that all good schools should be able to expand, a policy which is vital to meet the significant increase in demand for pupil places in coming years.”
The pledge was outlined in the Conservative’s manifesto earlier this year. It read: “The party will allow all good schools to expand, whether maintained schools, academies, free schools or grammar schools.”
Reports suggests more than 10 proposals for grammar “satellites” – that were parked awaiting a decision on the Kent school – could now be taken forward.
Ms Morgan said: “Further applications from good selective schools to expand will continue to be considered within the framework of the statutory prohibition on new selective schools and would have to meet the criteria for being a genuine expansion.”
Weald of Kent Grammar School first proposal to expand in 2013 with a mixed-sex annexe was not approved by the then secretary of state Michael Gove.
However the school submitted a second application in September where girls would be education on both sites, alongside a mixed sixth form.
Ms Morgan added: “I am also satisfied that the excellent quality of learning currently delivered will be replicated across the newly expanded school. I welcome the fact that the newly expanded school will better meet the needs of parents in the local area, with 41% of existing pupils at the Weald of Kent Grammar School already travelling from the Sevenoaks area.”
The school expects to open the new site from September 2017.