30/03/2012 13:11 BST

Sevenoaks Grammar School Plan Approved By Tory Kent County Council

Plans to open a new grammar school have been approved by the local Conservative council, despite the government banning academic selection in schools.

The vote was overwhelmingly in favour of the proposal, which saw 66 councillors support the plans, with one abstaining and three opposing.

The grammar, to be built in Sevenoaks, Kent, will form an annexe of two existing schools in Tunbridge Wells and Tonbridge.

Campaigners insisted the school was necessary as many children from the area had to travel a round trip of 25 miles to reach their nearest grammar schools. A petition was signed by more than 2,600 people to create more places for pupils by creating a satellite school.

In an open letter to Kent County Council, parents argued: "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."

Under government legislation, it is not possible to set up a new academically selective school but education secretary Michael Gove's relaxation of rules allowed existing schools to establish annexes if places were in high demand.

The decision will have been watched closely by counties such as Buckinghamshire, Berkshire and Essex, who are among some of the regions to retain the divisive exam.

High profile education campaigners have spoken out against the grammar system, arguing the 11-plus divides children according to academic ability at too young an age.

Education campaigner Melissa Benn, a staunch supporter of comprehensives, which she says has become a "dirty word", said: "Education is more than just exams. The idea of defining children by ability when they're so young is terribly unimaginative.

"By the time an 11-year-old passes school they have already been put into races, into little boxes. In comprehensives there is not such a concern about definition. Exams kill your love of learning."

The school will cater for around 120 children who pass the 11-plus and will be the first new grammar for 50 years.