Saturday, 3 December 2011

The Secondary School Debate

It is is an interesting time indeed in the debate on Secondary School education in Sevenoaks.  With an application in progress for a Christian Free School, and new data highlighting a substantial shortfall of secondary school places by 2018, all parents of primary and pre-school children will have to start thinking about secondary schools a lot earlier than they ever considered.


County Hall data indicates that the number of children leaving primary schools in the 'Sevenoaks South' area is set to increase from 495 this year (2011/12) to around 650 in 2015/16 (present year 2) to around 680 in 2017/18 (present year R).  


Sevenoaks will clearly need more secondary school places to accommodate these extra children.  If new places are not created, then Sevenoaks parents will see their children allocated places even further from home, possibly even as far as Sittingbourne.


If David Cameron's Big Society is to mean anything, people in Sevenoaks have the right to have their voices heard.  Before decisions are made on what type of places are created here, possibly as soon as within the next 6 months, the people of Sevenoaks are going to have to think long and hard about what kind of education services they want for their children.


Readers of the letters page in the Sevenoaks Chronicle will know that the views on education in Sevenoaks vary wildly.  From those opposed to the 11+; supporters of a Christian Free School; staunch supporters of a single-sex Grammar school system and those who don't want anything to get in the way of the Knole's success.


Education is an emotive subject - parents are not prepared to allow their children to be the guinea-pigs - and quite rightly.  We have to move the debate out of our kitchens and into the public arena.  We have to take the time to understand what the real secondary school choices are, and whether we simply want more of the same, or whether we actually want something different.  We need to act and think as a community.  


Sevenoaks ACE is proposing to use a recognised process called Community Action Planning to find out what the community really wants by way of secondary education.  For those who complain about the school system in Sevenoaks, this is your chance to have your voice heard.  The next few months is crucial.  


We only have a short time to complete this really important work.  Together we can create a better future for our children, and we have to act now.

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