Letters on expansion of grammar school places

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Here is good news for the parents of all those pupils who sat and passed the 11-plus exam for entrance to Bourne Grammar School in September. They have all been offered the place they applied for.

This has been made possible because Lincolnshire County Council has allowed the school to increase the number of Year 7 pupils it is allowed to accept from 180 in mid 2012 (150 in September) to 203. In fact all those who applied and passed.

The school will now have a seven-form Year 7 entry compared to a five-form entry in 2012. As these pupils progress through the school, and if the increase in the number of pupils allowed to enter is made permanent, then the academy will grow by40 per cent in a very few years. The implication of this is that there will be a need for more space, more facilities and more resources, in fact a large financial investment.

The effect on Stamford may also be felt as fewer more-able pupils will opt to apply to Stamford Queen Eleanor School despite the large financial investment made in that school since 2006 and the efforts made by the staff and governors to make it more appealing to them.

No pupils selected by the 11-plus exam will be attending the Stamford Endowed Schools. This is despite the county council stating (meeting May 19, 2006) referring to grammar school places in the county: ”The council has a policy of maintaining this type of provision and the Stamford Endowed Schools scheme is consistent with that approach”

For the future the prospects for Stamford’s more-able pupils do not look likely to improve.

Bourne’s population is anticipated to rise to 18,000 within a few years. The children associated with this increase will need to access local education facilities. Approval of the new Elsea Park primary school which will undoubtedly produce a number of 11-plus candidates is evidence of this.

The Charles Read Academy is to close and the children displaced by this closure and those who would have chosen that school to attend in the future will add to the numbers accessing the education facilities of Bourne.

This may result in shrinking the Designated Travel Area (the distance a pupil lives from the school of choice) thus making it less likely that all of Stamford’s pupils opting for Bourne Grammar will be successful even though they may have achieved the required score in their 11-plus test.

Those who do will, of course, have to face the £600 per year travel cost as Bourne Grammar is not considered by the county council to be the nearest appropriate school.

Of course the number allowed to enter Year 7 could be increased yet again but this will require huge investment.

There is an obvious solution, less costly, instantly available and not likely to encourage some parents of more able pupils to migrate to Bourne.

The education of the more-able pupils of Stamford and the way it has been handled can be likened to the amputation of a limb which is having its wound treated with an ineffectual application of a number of small sticking plasters!

John Hicks

Ryhall Road, Stamford

Your correspondent Kevin Brooks writes about the good schooling that allowed him to have aspirations beyond his background (Letters last week). I am quite sure that all schools that serve Stamford regard it as their absolute priority to encourage all their students to aim high.

Mr Brooks feels that Stamford is an example of an area where parents face a postcode lottery as they seek the best school for their children. It is my professional view, having served as a local headteacher for eight years, that Stamford is well served by two strong and improving comprehensive schools and an independent school of excellent reputation.

What Mr Brooks may not know is that following the expansion of Bourne Grammar School, all children in Stamford who have passed the Lincolnshire 11-plus 
test and have applied for a place here, will today be offered a place for entry in September.

Stamford’s young people now have access to schools in the comprehensive, selective and independent sectors. A pleasing number of students joined us from Stamford last September and they are flourishing here.

Jonathan Maddox

Bourne Grammar School