Every child deserves the chance to go to a good school – and preferably a good school close to home. We have some fantastic local schools but with more children, there’s increasing competition for places.
I’ve been helping a family from a local village who couldn’t get their child into a school in Maidstone, so they’ve been offered a place on the Isle of Sheppey. That’s a long trip for a child to make every day. Kent County Council are predicting as many as 74 secondary school children could be in a similar situation in 2020-21 unless we urgently address this problem.
Valley Invicta Academies Trust (VIAT) had their application to open a new non-selective school specialising in science, technology, engineering and maths approved in 2015. It was originally meant to open this September. Then it was pushed back to 2018. Now I’ve found out it’s been delayed again because of planning wrangles. This is not fair for the children who should be going new school. I’m organising a meeting with the regional schools commissioner, Kent County Council, Maidstone Borough Council and I hope a representative from VIAT, to work out how we make sure we get the school in 2019.
I know some people are concerned that a new school in the same place as Valley Park and Invicta Grammar will add to traffic in New Cut Road. Hand in hand with the school should be investment in roads, along with buses and walking routes to reduce the number of pupils dropped off by car. We also need a new primary school and a special school for children in Maidstone and Bearsted.
There are plans to get these open but they have been delayed and won’t be ready by next year, so I’m calling on the commissioner to make sure both are ready to admit pupils in September 2019.