After four years of campaigning, a significant milestone has been reached for selective education in the UK as building work starts on a grammar school annexe in Kent.
The grammar school provision in Sevenoaks is an annexe of the Weald of Kent Grammar School, in Tonbridge.
Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, said: “This is a hugely significant day for selective education in the country. We are extremely proud to be the first local authority in the UK to have relentlessly pursued this ambition.
“We have overcome many legal barriers to fill the gap in selective education in this part of the county.
“We have worked closely with the Weald of Kent Grammar School which has put together an excellent plan for managing the annexe which will provide a grammar school education for children who currently are forced to travel miles every day to go to the school.
“This is not just a great day for education in Kent but the future of grammar school education across the country.”
David Bower, Chair of Governors at Weald of Kent Grammar School said: “This is a major milestone for us and comes after many months of hard work by all concerned.
“It is the latest phase in the process of providing a grammar school education for children in the Sevenoaks district, and means we are on track to open the doors to our first intake next September.”
The concept of a grammar school annexe in Sevenoaks began in March 2012, following a petition from parents in that district, asking Kent County Council to consider ways to provide one.
Sevenoaks was the only district in Kent which did not offer a selective option for secondary education.
Students from the town with a grammar assessment and therefore eligible for a grammar school place, had to travel a minimum of eight miles to the nearest grammar school.
The county council agreed with the parents and set out its ambition to deliver the annexe.
However, the plans needed government approval which was eventually achieved when in November 2015, the then Secretary of State for Education, Nicky Morgan, approved the scheme.
The contract for the building on the former Wildernesse School and later Knole Academy site in Seal Hollow Road has been awarded to Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd.
Designs have been agreed for a fully-fitted lecture theatre, performance spaces and sports facilities, as well as a wide range of specialist classrooms.
To celebrate this historic milestone a tree will be planted in the grounds of the school.
The annexe will have a three-form intake, totalling 90 pupils per year, the first of whom will begin lessons there in September 2017.