29/03/2012 05:14 BST

Sevenoaks Grammar School Likely To Receive Conservative Council Backing

Controversial plans to allow a grammar school to open an annexe look set to receive a backing by the local Conservative-led authority.

A petition has been signed by more than 2,600 people to create more places for pupils to avoid them having to travel out of their local area for selective education.

Due to Sevenoaks in Kent not having a grammar school, 1,150 locally-based pupils spend up to two hours commuting each day to grammar schools in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

Under government legislation, it is not possible to set up a new selective school but a relaxation of rules last year allows existing schools to open an annexe to cater for strong demand for places.

In response to the petition and following the legal change, Kent County Council (KCC) is expected to agree on Thursday afternoon to examine setting up a satellite school in Sevenoaks linked to existing grammar schools in either Tonbridge or Tunbridge Wells.

In what is likely to be a controversial move, it is proposed that from September 2015 the Tory-controlled authority create two forms for girls and two for boys who pass the 11-plus, catering for about 120 children.

A report to go before full council states: "This additional selective provision could be proposed to be located on a single site in southern Sevenoaks.

"Each annexe would retain its own school's individuality."

Other areas that have grammar schools, including Birmingham, Buckinghamshire and Lincolnshire, will be looking closely at events.

Expansion of selective education on a new satellite site has not happened since the 1960s, although Torquay Boys' Grammar School in Devon started talks last year to set one up seven miles away.

There is a growing need for more school places in Sevenoaks, with the Year 7 population there expected to rise from 495 to 681 over the next seven years.

One suggestion is that a local school site set to be made vacant shortly could accommodate the numbers required for the extra grammar school places.

A letter to the council from the Sevenoaks Grammar School Campaign said children from the town face a daily round trip of 25 miles to reach grammar schools in Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells.

It said: "This has a negative effect on their learning, on their opportunities for hobbies and sport, on their opportunities to develop friendships, and on the time they spend with their families."

The recommendation to councillors, who will meet at County Hall, Maidstone, is that KCC "pursues proposals" to provide two forms of entry for boys and two for girls "that would meet legal requirements".