Article that appeared in Kent on Sunday, 22 May 2016. Based on fuller article which you will find here.
This year’s increase of 591 in the number of children offered places in Kent primary school Reception Classes has been met with a similar increase in the number of school places available, and the welcome news that the proportion of children gaining a school of their choice has also increased, to a record in recent years of 96.7%. Overall, there are 6% empty places, the same as last year, but these figures hide a growing number of local pressures focused on the towns. The biggest problems this year are in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, no empty spaces at all, Maidstone, one space, Gravesham, three, and Tunbridge Wells seven, each in just one school.
The ten most popular schools this year are: Fleetdown Primary, Dartford, and Loose Primary, Maidstone both turning away 53 first choices; Great Chart, Ashford, 41; Holy Trinity and St John’s CofE, Margate, 38; St Joseph’s RC in Northfleet, Sandgate in Folkestone, and Claremont in Tunbridge Wells all on 37; St Michael’s CofE Infant in Maidstone, 35, St Crispin’s Infant, Westgate on 34; and Herne Infant on 33.
At the other end of the scale, there are fourteen schools with 50% or more vacancies.
I would encourage parents to apply to go on the waiting list for any of their preferences that have not been offered, as there will be movement over the next four months. This is your best chance of getting a school of your choice, as chances at appeal are generally very low because of Infant Class Legislation which legally restricts class sizes. For 2015 entry, of 426 primary appeals registered where Infant Class Legislation applied, just two were upheld.
Further details of the towns under most pressure follow, a more comprehensive picture being available here.
An extra 60 temporary places have been put in to meet rising demand. 30 of these are at Willesborough Infant School creating some spare capacity, but apart from this the only school with vacancies in the town is the new Finberry Primary Academy, with eight spaces, although these will fill as new housing developments in the area come on stream. Great Chart, with 41 first choices turned away, and Kingsnorth CofE Primary with 28, are under extreme pressure because of building developments, and families buying new houses here are often in for a great shock when they discover there are no school places nearby.
Just 3% vacancies in the district, the large majority in two town schools, Temple Hill and Wentworth. These are two of the three schools along with Brent Primary, that have seen an additional 90 temporary places created after applications were received to ease the pressure. Fleetdown Primary turned away 53 first choices, sharing the position of most oversubscribed school in Kent, Dartford Bridge Community (23) and Our Lady’s Catholic (20) also proving popular.
Just 3 places available in town, all at Tymberwood Academy, with 78 families getting none of their choices, by some way the highest figure in Kent. 90 additional places were created this year, 30 each at Singlewell, St John’s and Westcourt, just averting a disaster. Most oversubscribed school is St Joseph’s Catholic, turning away 37 first choices, with Cecil Road and St John’s Catholic on 31. Four schools account for the large majority of the Local Authority allocations for those with no school of their choice- Westcourt with 25 and three academies, Whitehill with 21, and Chantry and Tymberwood Academy with 13. Each year I am contacted by parents offered what appear to be absurd alternatives, often from Northfleet, given schools the other side of the Borough, or else over the A2 and into the countryside at Istead Rise.
Just one vacancy in one school in town, at Tree Tops Academy. Most oversubscribed school is Loose, one of the two most popular primary schools in the County, with 53 first choices turned down, followed by St Michael’s Infants with 35 losing out, closely followed by Brunswick House with thirty two. 58 children got no school of their choice, all but four being allocated to Barming, Palace Wood and Tree Tops. Jubilee Primary Free School has had its intake reduced from 60 to 30 by the Council because of planning problems with its temporary premises, and has just filled. The new Langley Park Primary has 22 offers for its 60 places in its first year of operation, the pressure on places seen from the 13 Local Authority allocations made to the school, with some children who will need to be bussed from the other side of town.
None of the five town schools have vacancies, but levels of oversubscription have fallen across the board. Most oversubscribed this year is Lady Boswell’s CofE, turning away 24 fist choices, Riverhead Infants having fallen sharply to 10.
A much improved situation from last year, with the number of children allocated schools they hadn’t applied to falling from 38 to 23, spread across the town. Sandgate is still the most popular school, with 37 first choices rejected, although sharply down on last year’s 67, when the school was the most the most oversubscribed in Kent. Other popular schools are Stella Maris Catholic (17), and St Eanswythe’s CofE (16). The new Martello Grove Academy is struggling to attract numbers with just 8 of its 30 places filled.
Most oversubscribed school in Sittingbourne is Canterbury Road Primary turning away 21 first choices, followed by Grove Park, 14 and Kemsley Primary Academy, 13. Just four out of 14 schools with vacancies, nearly all at Lansdowne with 18. Plenty of places on the Isle of Sheppey, with just three of the ten schools full.
In Faversham, just five places left in Bysing Wood Primary out of the eight schools, which also had four of the five children allocated by KCC. However, Ethelbert Road, OFSTED Outstanding, was the only school heavily oversubscribed turning away 27 disappointed first choices.
In recent years, one of the most pressured Districts, but an additional 90 places have been created by the extension of St George’s CofE Foundation (secondary) to become an all through school and 30 places added at Birchington CofE. Whilst these ensure there are 45 places vacant across the 28 schools, they are all in just five schools, most at Dame Janet Primary Academy, 54, and Ramsgate Free School, 45. Most popular school again is Holy Trinity & St John’s CofE, with 38 disappointed first choices, followed by St Crispin’s Community Infants, 34 and Callis Grange Infants, 30.
Tonbridge is very tight again for 2016, with no vacancies in town. The delay in opening the new Bishop Chavasse Free School, set back to September 2017, has obviously exacerbated the pressures. However, all but 22 of the 608 applications were awarded one of their three choices, 20 of these being allocated to Long Mead Community. Most oversubscribed school is Sussex Road, 24 first choices rejected, followed by Stocks Green with 16 and Slade, 11.
Just 8 places empty this year, all at St Augustine’s Catholic, although 903 out of the 947 children received one of their three choices, most of the remainder, 29, being allocated by KCC to Temple Grove Academy. Most oversubscribed school is the ever popular Claremont, turning away 37 first choices, followed by St James’ CofE Infant with 26, and Langton Green with 18.
These tend to have a defined intake from paired Infant Schools whose pupils have priority for spaces. However, some families in all through primary schools who may not be particularly happy with their current school, or who have moved into the area, also take the opportunity to apply for additional or vacant places, with the result that 15 of the 28 Junior Schools in Kent are oversubscribed, most by small numbers. The three most popular are: Christ Church CofE Junior, 22 first choices turned away, and St Saviour’s CofE Junior, with 12, both from Thanet: along with Whitstable & Seasalter Endowed, with eleven.