Top grammar schools could expand with a preference for Sutton pupils
Grammar schools could expand to prioritise children from Sutton, to redress the lack of local children at the borough’s best schools.
The council has approached the Partnership of Sutton Secondary Schools asking for 120 extra places for pupils at five schools in 2015 when the current primary school place crisis hits the secondary sector.
Sutton Grammar School
Despite Liberal Democrat policy traditionally being opposed to grammar school expansion a report submitted to the council recommends both Nonsuch High School for Girls and Sutton Grammar School for Boys expand by 15 places, with Sutton residents given the spaces.
The council regularly champions the fact it has some of the "best schools in the country" however at its top five schools, the grammar schools, a minority of children come from Sutton - a bugbear for many parents.
A Freedom of Information (FOI) request, by this newspaper, revealed that out of the 801 children that started Sutton’s grammar schools this September a staggering 520 of them came from outside the borough.
Carshalton Boys Sports College, Glenthorne High School and Greenshaw High School are also recommended to each expand by 30 places under the proposed plans.
Parents have welcomed the news and hope it sets a precedent for more places to be given to Sutton children at the grammar schools, where there is furious competition for places.
One mum, Natalie Ward, said: "In my opinion, 15 more places (at each grammar school) just for local children is still not enough, but it is definitely a step in the right direction. Many local children pass the selective tests but lose out on places to children who live many miles away."
If the council agrees the proposals it will mean greater choice between selective and non-selective places for Sutton’s parents.
Children will have to meet the eligibility criteria for grammar school entrance and will still be ranked but preference would be given to children within a defined geographical circle for those additional places.
Peter Gale the headteacher of Nonsuch High School for Girls said: "The discussion over the next few weeks is how we are going to manage that expansion and plan to make sure the borough has got the 120 places it needs.
"My personal view is it would be good for the school to serve the local community in a deeper way than it does at the moment. We want to be embedded in the local community."
This September Nonsuch High School of Girls admitted 75 out of 180 pupils from Sutton while Sutton Grammar School for Boys accepted 38 out of 118 from Sutton.
MP Paul Burstow
Despite voting to ban grammar schools in 2006 Paul Burstow the MP for Sutton and Cheam argued recently they should be allowed to expand and operate in a way that was fair to the local community. He said: "The fact that the extra places in our grammar schools will be reserved for Sutton children is something I welcome. I hope the borough's other grammar schools will follow suit."
Paul Scully Conservative Parliamentary candidate for Sutton and Cheam, said: "That’s good news I think grammar schools should be able to expand but importantly we need to have a solution for Sutton’s children. Yes let’s get expansion going but let’s not just use a sticking plaster. To solve the problems long-term we need a new school."
The report also notes the council is considering sites for a new secondary school which will be required in 2017-18 or 2018-19.
Councillors noted the report but it is not known when a decision will be made on the proposals. Initially temporary accommodation will be provided for the extra pupils while a permanent building programme is developed.
A council spokesperson said: "A report was considered by the Children, Family and Education Committee earlier this month with recommendations for ways to manage the increase in demand for school places across the borough. In relation to consideration of sites for a new secondary school and primary school, no site has been agreed upon at this time."
The report also recommended plans for a new primary school need to be worked up to provide places in 2015/16.
Recently the council refused to comment on its plans to cope with the increased demand on primary schools due to the soaring birth rate and in-migration to the borough.
Forecasts have revealed that nearly 3,000 pupils are at risk of not having a school place in Sutton in 2016.
Since 2008, 18 permanent forms of entry have been added to primary schools in Sutton along with 18 additional bulge classes - one-off extra classes that start in reception and progress through the school but are not permanent.
Avenue Primary School was forced to be super-sized by Sutton Council
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