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Vote opposed to moving Barton Court Grammar

But supporters say a coastal school is needed

COASTAL CLASSROOMS: The school could be included in the development of the former Herne Bay Golf Club
COASTAL CLASSROOMS: The school could be included in the development of the former Herne Bay Golf Club

A SCHOOL’S plans to move from Canterbury to a new site in Herne Bay was opposed by almost two thirds of people who responded to the consultation. Results of the research by Barton Court Grammar School were published on Wednesday and reveal that of 187 feedback forms received, 122 were against the proposed move. Just per cent (52) were in favour and the rest were undecided.

Investigating

Head teacher Kirstin Cardus and the governors of the Canterbury school are investigating the possibility it moving to the former Herne Bay golf course site at Eddington, as part of a development by NewmaQuinn, and say the move would provide more space for the school to expand. But opponents say there is no need to expand and the school should remain in the city centre. A statement on the school’s website alongside the results said that a final decision had not yet been made. It said:

“On the basis of the consultation results, educational considerations and the view of stakeholders, the governing body will decide whether or not to pursue the proposed move.”

As well as location, the other main reason for opposition was travel issues, as well as leaving Canterbury without a co-educational grammar school. Objectors also pointed out that more homes were planned for the city meaning there would be a need for more school places, not fewer. There were also suggestions to use the Chaucer school site after it closes in the summer. But supporters said the move would give children in Herne Bay and Whitstable a local grammar school, saving them having to travel to Canterbury. They also cited links with the planned sports hub that would also be on the site, better facilities and the opportunities for expansion that could make the school more financially viable. As well as the feedback forms. there was also a petition from students against the move, while the Barton Court Parents Forum, an unofficial group set up by parents opposed to the plan, also submitted a formal response. A spokesman said:

“The school failed to recognise the online petition against the move that was submitted as part of the consultation, which has garnered more than 700 signatures to date, and have not counted the current student petition, instead claiming that only five students have responded. All this doesn’t help to instil confidence in either the process or the leadership of the school. Some of the submissions from people who are against the proposal are damning in the extreme. The lack of trust in the management of the school is palpable and worrying. The majority of people are against the move and have given intelligent, coherent and pertinent arguments. We can only hope our views will finally be respected and listened to.”

A final decision would be made by the Education Secretary and the school would need to provide a business plan to the Education Funding Agency with details of the planned financial aspects. Kent County Council officials have said there would be no funding available from their education budget but Mark Quinn, of Quinn Estates which is leading the scheme, has pledged extra cash. The school was omitted from the original planning application because the consultation was ongoing. A care home was included in its place but Mr Quinn said it could be added back in.

The numbers

187 forms were received – 87 from parents, 20 from staff, 5 from students and 67 from other interested parties including prospective parents and grandparents. The rest were not categorised. Of the 52 in favour, 12 were from parents, 15 from staff and 25 from others. Of the 122 against the proposal, 73 were from parents, four from staff, four from students, 33 from others and eight not categorised.

The argument against….

An excerpt from a letter against the move:
It is an educational site shared with Canterbury College, and the University for the Creative Arts, with close proximity to Canterbury Christ Church University and The Kings School. This proves that it is indeed a highly prized and appropriate place for young people to be learning, and to feel connected morally and physically to other central learning establishments: to have that wonderful and privileged experience of being apart of the academic heart and soul of Canterbury. Canterbury is a world-renowned city for its history aid as a religious centre and as such, young people are proud to say where their school is. I can assure you that no one outside of Kent has heard of Herne Bay. It has nothing memorable about it — a nondescript seaside town. Can you imagine the Kings School considering selling off their sites and moving into a windswept field in the middle of nowhere? Not likely. Are you aware that Christ Church University is buying up every piece of central Canterbury real estate it can lay its hands on? What they seem to have is vision to invest in the future, and what they know – that Ms Kardus and Co seem to be unaware of – is what a special, unique and attractive place Canterbury is for learners, and Barton Court holds that pride of place. How dare she jeopardise that by sabotaging and undermining a good school?

The argument in favour… 

An excerpt from a letter in favour of the move:
We are parents of current Year 4 children who are performing extremely well and should have no problem in achieving the level necessary for grammar school entry. Unfortunately, this does not necessarily mean there will be a space at Barton Court in its existing capacity tom the girls to study with you. Shrinking catchment areas and increased demand mean that fewer able students will have the opportunity to reach their potential. It would be a shame to see the potential of the school and its pupils continue to be stifled by the purely physical constraints of the existing site. The relocation of Barton Court with the improved facilities and increase in intake will have a positive impact on Canterbury and the coastal areas. The new site is close to the railway station and the area already has good public transport links.

Herne Bay Times, May 1st 2014

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