We thought that it would be useful to document the series of events that led to the creation of Excellent Education For Everyone, covering each action that the council took on this journey as well as bringing together references to any support or opposition that they received. We will update this over the course of the coming months so you can check back here any time for the latest situation. Some of the information presented here has been made available to us through Freedom of Information requests whilst other documents are on public web sites. Wherever possible we have provided links to copies of original documentation so that you can see the evidence for yourselves.
The earliest documented interest in the creation of a grammar school in Maidenhead that we can find occurred when the Royal Borough wrote to The Buckinghamshire Grammar Schools, the not for profit group that co-ordinates admissions for Buckinghamshire grammar schools. Receipt of this letter is noted in the minutes of the group’s meeting that took place on 14th May 2014. The group was later visited by RBWM council officers Ben Wright and David Scott (then RBWM Head of Education) on June 25th 2014 as noted in that meeting’s minutes. These documents indicate that the council was investigating the possibility of bringing a grammar school to Maidenhead as early as the summer of 2014 and that they had approach both Buckinghamshire and Slough grammar schools about partnering with one of them to achieve this.
During September 2014 a public consultation document was published that outlines the need for more school places in Maidenhead and proposes some solutions. This includes proposal (3c) for a satellite grammar school although the consultation does not provide the means for anyone to be in favour of a new school without also being in favour of a satellite grammar school. The results of this consultation can be found on the council website along with the papers for the following cabinet meeting where these results were discussed. Despite what our council leaders have subsequently said, the support that they received from this consultation was anything but clearly in favour of a grammar school.
By December 2014 it seems clear that the Maidenhead Conservatives are determined to move ahead as Theresa May comes out in support of the idea with an article published on her web site titled “Theresa backs new school places in Maidenhead” and then in April 2015 there are hints of the Conservative councillors intent in their election manifesto.
September – December 2015
From September 2015, there was a great deal more interest in the topic as the council moved things forward. They had initially been stalling awaiting a decision by the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, on the legality of the idea of an annex site grammar school. Interestingly, this resulted in a comment by the council’s Head of Education, David Scott, where he said that he did not believe that a new school would be needed (see below). Less than one month later, with the decision from Nicky Morgan giving the go-ahead to the Sevenoaks annex in Kent, the idea is back on the table and apparently we do need a new school after all (we will be looking at the case for a new school at some point in the coming months). It is, perhaps, interesting to note that since making this statement, David Scott has been moved out of the education team entirely.
As it happened:
|18/9/2015||A Maidenhead Advertiser article is published that reports on the fact that a draft plan for £20m expansion of existing schools has been released by the council. The article includes a quote from the Head of Education, David Scott, that a new school is not needed.|
|25/9/2015||The £20m expansion of existing schools is given the go-ahead during a council cabinet meeting whilst the plan for the Grammar school in Maidenhead was put on hold until Department of Education makes a decision on the Kent grammar project.|
|15/10/2015||A Maidenhead Advertiser article is published saying that the plans for a Maidenhead Grammar school are now back on the table. Cllr Philip Bicknell (Con, Park) was speaking shortly after the Education Secretary, Nicky Morgan, confirmed that the Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge would be allowed to open a new site in Sevenoaks.|
|21/10/2015||Council plans to spend up to £200,000 to explore expanding Marlow grammar school in Maidenhead are published in the Maidenhead Advertiser. The article includes the first signs of opposition in the form of a comment from the Head Teacher of Cox Green School, Heidi Swidenbank, expressing concern that the presence of a Grammar school will turn her school into a Secondary Modern.|
|29/10/2015||The council cabinet meets and backs plans for the Grammar school in Maidenhead|
|30/10/2015||The previous day’s cabinet meeting is reported in the Maidenhead Advertiser|
|5/11/2015||In a follow-up to the report on the cabinet meeting, the Maidenhead Advertiser publishes an article covering council leader, David Burbage’s view that the creation of a Grammar would not lead to our Comprehensive schools becoming Secondary Moderns.|
|3/3/2016||The Advertiser reports on Buckinghamshire’s Local Equal Excellent campaign and the support that they are giving our own campaign.|
|21/3/2016||RBWM publishes a press release on their web site that announces that a survey of parents of Maidenhead children who achieved Key Stage 2 Level 5 and above in reading, writing and maths in 2014 and 2015, who did not apply for a place at a grammar (selective school) is being conducted.|
|23/7/2016||The Advertiser reports that the council have said that they are still working with Sir William Borlase’s Grammar School to assist it in opening a satellite grammar school in the Royal Borough. This, combined with press reports nationally about the possibility of the removal of the ban on new grammar schools, prompt a rush of letters to the editor (see below) over the following weeks to condemn this.|
|30/7/2016||Our response to the previous week’s report is published in the Advertiser.|
|9/9/2016||Theresa May announces plans for a new consultation process on an education system shake up that includes allowing new selective schools.|
|9/9/2016||Cllr Dudley Tweets that the remaining £195K of the £200K budget allocated to the satellite grammar project has been written back. Does this signal the end of the satellite in the hope that the governement is able to change national policy to allow a new grammar?|
|12/9/2016||Education green paper “Schools that work for everyone” released by education secretary Justine Greening.|
|22/9/2016||Cllr Dudley’s previous tweet about the £195K write back confirmed in the public document pack (financial update) for the Children’s Services overview & Scrutiny panel meeting (see section 4.9)…
|16/11/2016||One of our members addressed the RBWM Children’s services overview & scrutiny panel which was considering the council “Improving choice in education” paper which covers the councils plans for moving forward on its grammar school proposal and its response to the government “Schools that work for everyone” green paper.
It is worth noting that the paper was subsequently called in for further scrutiny by the opposition (see below).
|24/11/2016||The Maidenhead Advertiser publishes comments made by our chairman, Peter Prior, on the back of reports that RBWM council had earmarked land currently owned by Peter’s company as a possible site for a selective school.|
|24/11/2016||The RBWM Cabinet met to discuss the paper previously presented to the Children’s overview & scrutiny panel. Our members were present to make further representation.|
|8/12/2016||The Children’s Overview & Scrutiny Panel met again to reconsider the council’s “Improving choice in education” paper after it had been called in by opposition council members. Council officers had responded to the call in reasons and updated the paper. Our members were present again to restate our points on the paper.|
|13/12/2016||One of our members attended this month’s RBWM full council meeting to pose questions to the council on their grammar plans.|
|21/3/2017||RBWM publishes the responses to its letter inviting local Comprehensives to consider converting to grammar schools that it has received|
Letters to the editor
In addition to all the excellent coverage that the Maidenhead Advertiser reporting team have written, the paper has also published plenty of readers’ letters in their Viewpoint section. In the following section you will find links to every letter on the subject of the introduction of a Grammar school that we have seen published in Viewpoint, including links to the two Opinion pieces written by Advertiser regulars Gavin Ames and Helen MacDonald. We have included letters that are in opposition to the plan as well as those that support it (although there have been noticeably few of these).
As this debate rumbles on we will update this article to reflect the latest position and we will endeavour to include links to every relevant item that is published; if we miss anything, please let us know. We will post an update on our Facebook page each time this article is updated so that it is easy to stay in touch with the latest news.