Sevenoaks will finally open the doors to its first grammar school this week after years of campaigning.
The Weald of Kent School girls’ annexe in Seal Hollow Road will see its first Year 7 students walk through its doors for classes on Friday (September 8).
And governors and staff have expressed their excitement on the eve of its opening.
Weald of Kent Grammar School chairman of governors David Bower said: “We have worked very hard over the last three years since Kent County Council registered the need for a grammar school in the Sevenoaks area.
“Many of our girls already come from Sevenoaks and we considered ourselves to be the best provider at the time – and this has proved to be the case.
“[Former education secretary] Nicky Morgan said it was a genuine annexe to the Tonbridge campus and we are aware of the national interest in its opening this week.
“We have 120 girls starting in Year 7 on Friday. It really is a fantastic facility and a wonderful annexe.
“We are excited as staff and governors and I am sure the girls will feel the same when they start.
“It will be interesting to see how it develops and we are confident we are going to provide everything everyone wants.
“I take my hat off to everyone involved.”
Calls for a grammar school in Sevenoaks began as early as 2010 when it was revealed more than 100 children from the area were left without grammar school places.
This was despite more than 300 places being offered to out-of-area children – some as far away as Hastings and Brighton – due to the super-selective criteria of schools such as The Judd School in Tonbridge and The Skinners’ School in Tunbridge Wells.
Kent County Council began researching the possibility of a grammar school in 2011 and an online petition was launched soon after which gathered more than 2,600 signatures over a number of months.
It was backed by Sevenoaks MP Michael Fallon and Kent County Council gave a new building the go-ahead in 2012, provided it was an annexe of an existing school with new grammar builds banned under law.
The former Wildernesse site was identified as a suitable location and Weald of Kent Grammar School in Tonbridge was named as the provider.
Strong opposition was communicated by anti-grammar group Kent Education Network and existing schools in the area, and the plans reached national attention following the debate surrounding new grammars.
But after months of waiting for the green light from then education secretary Nicky Morgan, she approved the building of the new annexe in 2015 after being certain it would be a satellite site rather than a new school.
Legal challenges were dropped and building works started in 2016 to be ready for opening in September this year.
The £11 million building includes 25 classrooms, a dining, sports and school hall as well as a lecture theatre.
It has a capacity for 450 girls with 90 starting in a three-form entry this September.
Mr Bower previously told Kent Live there was “the possibility” for a boys’ provision within two years if the law changes to allow new grammar schools.