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Head: No decisions have been made yet

Consultation begins over planned relocation of grammar school from Canterbury to Bay

THE head teacher of a grammar school hoping to relocate from Canterbury to Herne Bay has reassured parents no decisions have been made yet. At the first meeting held as part of formal consultation on the plan, Barton Court head teacher Kirstin Cardus said there was still a long way to go. The school’s bosses want to sell their listed buildings in the city centre to fund a new school as part of the development of the former Herne Bay Golf Club site.

Shortfall

But Ms Cardus told the meeting at the Kings Hall in Herne Bay:

“It is not a done deal. There is a long way to go and lots of decisions to be made, not just by the governors but by other people. There is obviously a shortfall in fighting and we will be asking the Education Funding Agency to meet that. But we feel to get a new school for a few million pounds is value for money for the public purse.”

About 50 people attended last Friday’s meeting to hear Ms Cardus spell out the school’s reasons for wanting a move. Including being over-subscribed and having no space on their existing site. Last week’s GCSE league tables had Barton Court as top grammar schools in the district, but Ms Cardus said:

“There are schools locally that have much better facilities than we do — the facilities I had 30 years ago were far far better than the facilities Barton Court students have now. It saddens me. It is a crying shame and something I want to put right.”

Herne Bay MP Sir Roger Gale joined Ms Cardus and Peter Klappa, chairman of the school’s governors, on the panel for a discussion section and urged people to back the plans. He said:

“If we are going to have a grammar school at all in Herne Bay I would suggest this is a one-off opportunity. If we miss this it won’t happen again. We have a school that needs to move, there is a site available, provided by the developer on very competitive terms, with sports facilities. The figures can be made to stack up. If Herne Bay wants a grammar school this is the best opportunity the town is ever likely to get..”

Local councillors also gave the scheme their backing. Herne and Broomfield Tory Peter Vickery-Jones said:

“People should be getting behind this a lot more because we absolutely want a grammar school oil the coast. Our kids deserve it.”

But parents questioned whether moving the school was the solution, suggesting an additional school would be better. They also raised fears Barton Court would lose its “small school” feel if it expanded.

Ethos

But Dr Klappa said the school’s ethos would remain the same. Other concerns were raised about the loss of the school’s £4 million sports hail, shared with Canterbury Christ Church University but Ms Cardus said the school would have its own sports hail and could hire it out to raise more money. She added:

“Until we sell the school we don’t know if any of this is going to happen.”

The next consultation meeting will take place at Seasalter Christian Centre in Faversham Road, Seasalter, at 4.30pm on Friday, February 7, and in the school’s hail on Friday, February 14 at 4.30pm. Parents against the move have set up their own website, www.bartoncourtsparentsforum.org

The move in numbers

As provided by head teacher Kirstin Cardus:

  • Barton Court’s current site was built for 550 students. There are 888 on roll.
  • The hall can hold 290 pupils.
  • The school needs two extra science labs and two extra classrooms.
  • It only has one music room and one drama room.
  • Of the 178 pupils who put Barton Court as one of their choices last year, 41 per cent were from Whitstable or Herne Bay.
  • The school’s current site is about eight acres. The new site has three acres for the building and sports hail and the complex it will be part of, with the sports pitches, will be 18 acres.

They say…

Barton Court head teacher Kirstin Cardus: “Herne Bay High is a fantastic school but it is eight form entry. We have no desire to be as big as that”

Herne Bay resident Jenny Eburne: “Not every selective child on the coast wants to go to a co-ed school. Not every selective child in the city wants to go to a single sex school. This site would be put to much better use to cater for children of every ability.”

Herne Bay MP Sir Roger Gale: “The only way to do this is to transfer an existing school, realising its assets. It is not a choice either way. It is a choice of yes or no. Choice is not being denied, we are talking about creating a grammar school for the majority of children who are content with, happy with, and want a co-ed school.”

Herne Bay Hockey Club chairman Clive Cripps: I think this is the most phenomenal opportunity. If we say no to this and don’t support this the town won’t see this again. Sports clubs will have feeds of kids which will invigorate them. We will have something that keeps people in the town that spend money in the town. NewmaQuinn are giving the town a phenomenal offer.”

Heron ward councillor Joe Howes: “Barton Court is the ideal school to move to Herne Bay. It is what Herne Bay needs for regeneration. The key thing is increased parental choice. There is pressure from Swale and Thanet for places. if we can get the top 25 per cent of the coastal strip it can only be beneficial to the school.”

The opposition

PARENTS opposed to the move have set up their own campaign asking governors to think again before supporting the proposal. A leaflet handed out after the meeting says the move would result in less space and worse facilities, and students would lose their multimillion-pound sports centre they use at the moment. They say they have concerns over the safety of pitches which would be open to the public. The leaflet says:

“In 2007, BCGS had to spend thousands of pounds trying to stop a case to allow public access to its large playing field. An BCGS exgovernor recalls how BCGS and Chaucer “had already experienced the consequences of public access, with thousands of pounds worth of damage to fencing, an artificial cricket pitch, drug abuse, fly-tipping, trial biking and dog fouling to name but a few.”

“This is extremely concerning. In any public space there are potential dangers and we wonder how the school would ensure the children aren’t exposed to dangers such as discarded syringes, other drugs paraphernalia, condoms, dog fouling, broken glass and so on — particularly as these grounds cover such a large area?

“And of course, being open to the public means there are no controls over adults who’ve not been through criminal records checks, as is the standard safety precaution.”

Other points raised are that there was no mention of concern about space before the move was suggested. In March last year the governors discussed selling part of the school’s land. The leaflet says:

“It’s simply unacceptable to spend so much money, uproot so many pupils, change so many families’ finelyluned plans and catastrophically disrupt our children’s education on such a dramatic move when there is NO need, and NO evidence of anyone having thought there was — ever.”

Grammars top exam tables

JUST two schools in Canterbury district and Faversham failed to reach the government benchmark for the percentage of pupils achieving five or more GCSEs, including maths and English, at C or above, according to the latest statistics. Tables released by the Department for Education last week show Community College Whitstable was two per cent below the target, at 38 per cent, and Canterbury’s Spires Academy had a 31 per cent pass rate. The highest achieving school was Barton Court grammar, in Canterbury, with a 99 per cent pass rate, followed closely by Queen Elizabeth Grammar School in Faversham with 98 per cent. The government target was raised from 35 per cent last year to 40 per cent. Barton Court head teacher Kirstin Cardus said she was delighted to top the table for the Canterbury district for the second year in a row. She added:

“We have taken a slight reduction on the numbers placing Barton Court Grammar as their first preference this year, due, we think, to the uncertainty surrounding our proposed move to the coast, that is understandable. However, we have our highest number of second preferences and a record number of parents naming the school on their application, up 26 per cent in the past two years. We believe this is because our results continue to improve. According the Department for Education, we are the top performing grammar school in the Canterbury district for the second year running, in four out of five of the key performance indicators at KS4.”

Spires principal Nicki Mattin said the school missed the benchmark in one area — maths — but had seen progress in all other key subjects. She added:

“We are incredibly proud of the achievements of our students. There have been improvements across the school in all the key areas. The only progress measure below expectations was maths and that affected the headline figure. We have invested in staff and resources in this area and are already making rapid progress.”

Pass rates for the English Baccalaureate, a measure of pupils achieving A* to C grades in a range of subjects the government says is the core of a good education – English, maths, two science subjects, a language and either history or geography, have also been published this year.

Making the grade

Barton Court grammar, Canterbury: 99 per cent
Queen Elizabeth Grammar School Faversham: 98 per cent
Simon Langton for Girls, Canterbury: 96 per cent
Simon Langton for Boys, Canterbury: 91 per cent
Canterbury Academy: 55 per cent
Herne Bay High: 54 per cent
St Edmund’s, Canterbury: 54 per cent
St Anseim’s, Canterbury: 53 per cent
The Abbey School, Faversham: 51 per cent
Chaucer Tech, Canterbury: 51 percent
The Archbishop’s School, Canterbury: 45 per cent
Community College Whitstable: 38 per cent
Spires Academy, Canterbury; 31 per cent

Herne Bay Times, January 30th 2014

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