Should grammar schools expand? MP says Kent ruling is an “exciting opportunity” for Colchester

Will Quince, Colchester MP, addresses a National Citizen Service event

Will Quince, Colchester MP, addresses a National Citizen Service event - Credit: Archant

A landmark ruling to allow grammar schools to expand on a new site gives Colchester’s two selective state schools and “exciting opportunity”, the town’s MP has said.

Will Quince welcomed news that the Government had given the go-ahead for the Weald of Kent girls’ grammar school in Tonbridge to build a new satellite school in Sevenoaks, nine miles away, indicating that he would like to see a change in the law which bans new grammar schools.

Colchester has two grammar schools - the Colchester Royal Grammar School on Lexden Road and Colchester County High School for Girls on Norman Way.

Education secretary Nicky Morgan said the expansion in Kent – which would have provision for 450 pupils – was genuine and did not reflect a change in government policy towards selective schooling.

“This is one particular application with one particular set of circumstances. Why would I deny a good school the right to expand? I don’t think this will open any kind of precedent or floodgates.”

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But Mr Quince said the move was a “really good precedent that good schools are able to expand”, adding: “I think this represents an exciting opportunity for our two schools in Colchester.” “It is up to the schools, but this sets a really good precedent that really good schools, high performing schools, albeit grammar schools can expand and move onto secondary sites, whether you want to call them new schools or not.

“It gives the County High School for Girls and the Royal Grammar School some options and food for thought around future plans and how they can expand,” he said.

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Asked if he would like to see a change in the law to allow new grammar schools, he said: “Personally I would love to see that. This is a welcome first step.

“I want more children from Colchester and our county to have the opportunity to go to the County High School, I am in favour of an educational mix and I think grammar schools have an important role to play in that. Having two of the best in the country we are an example of how it can work.”

Under Tony Blair the law was changed to fix the number of selective state schools. It said that other new or existing state schools could not use academic criteria for admission. But existing grammar schools were allowed to expand.

The Sutton Trust research shows that fewer than 3pc of grammar schools pupils were from households entitled to free school meals – usually on incomes of less than £16,000 a year – compared with an average of 18pc of pupils in the areas around grammar schools.

Nearly 13pc of entrants to state grammar schools had previously attended private prep schools, compared with 6pc nationally.

But Mr Quince said: “There are clearly compelling arguments for and against Grammar Schools, but for me, on balance, when you weigh it up, I think the counter arguments against expanding grammr schools are not as compelling as the arguments to expand them, that is because of the opportunity they give children, particularly from lower income families. It is about social mobility,” he added.

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