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Tuesday, 08 July 2014 00:00

Oversubscription in Kent primary schools: Kent on Sunday 22 June 2014

On primary school allocation day in April, 796 Kent children were allocated to schools they had not applied to, a great shock for many parents as the number is well up on last year’s 661. 

This article looks at the popularity of individual schools and problems of capacity around the county this year.

Most popular school in Kent is once again Riverhead Infants in Sevenoaks, turning away 69 first choices, followed by St John’s Catholic Primary in Gravesham (50). Next come: Slade Primary, Tonbridge (47); with West Hill Primary, Dartford, Madginford Park Infants, Maidstone and Priory Infants, Ramsgate  all turning away 42 disappointed first choices. Minster in Sheppey (41), St John’s CofE, Tunbridge Wells  (38) and St Joseph’s Catholic, Northfleet (36) bring the total up to 9, tenth place being shared by: Brent, Dartford; Palm Bay, Margate; St Crispins’ Community Infant,  Westgate on Sea and St James CofE Infants, Tunbridge Wells, all with 35 disappointed first choices.  

Biggest problem area is probably Gravesham ....

where there are just two vacancies in the whole urban district of Gravesend and Northfleet. Apart from two schools in the rural south of the Borough, all the other 24 other schools is full. The two Catholic schools, St John’s in Gravesend (second in Kent), and St Joseph’s in Northfleet (last year’s most oversubscribed school) account for 86 first choices turned away, whilst 129 children were offered no school of their choice. No extra places created to tackle this issue, although I have been warning about it for some years.

None of the 16 primary schools in the west of Dartford has any vacancies, with Westgate and Brent both in the top ten most popular schools across the county.  222 children, over 20% of the total, did not get their first choice of school. Just 20 extra places were created to meet this demand. Elsewhere, there are vacancies in just two schools, at Knockhall and at Manor, Swanscombe.

In Sevenoaks Town and District, there are just 10 vacancies overall across the 27 schools. There is intense pressure on Sevenoaks town, even following the additional 60 places pumped into Sevenoaks and Lady Boswell’s CofE Primaries last year. As a result, many families have found their children diverted to schools in neighbouring villages, filling these, 75 families in the District getting no school of their choice. It is often falsely stated that the problems are caused by parental choice and there is a polarisation towards Riverhead Infants. But, if all schools are oversubscribed, then parents have no choice!

Tunbridge Wells is usually the eye of the storm, but the situation has eased this year, even though several schools have actually reduced intake. These include Claremont whose intake reduction from 90 to 60 last year produced a much a much higher proportion of siblings than normal. Claremont turned away 30 first choices, but this is surprisingly a fall from last year’s 45 when it was the fifth most oversubscribed school in Kent. Some parents in the area are very worried about parents taking up temporary address to gain admission, an issue I have raised before. The Wells Free School, in its second year, with an intake of just 24, had 20 first choices turned away, down at fifth in the TW popularity list.  Even though there are four schools with vacancies, 71 children were allocated to schools they did not apply for, with 33 of these going to Temple Grove Academy the highest figure of any school in Kent.

Thanet has also been a pressure point for years with parents trying to avoid a number of low performing or OFSTED failed schools. The polarisation of choice is very sharp here, with Priory Infants turning away 42 first choices, followed by Palm Bay and St Crispin’s Infants (35) and Holy Trinity and St John’s CofE (25) and Callis Grange Infants, also 25. Just four schools have all 112 vacancies between them.

At the other end of the scale, there are 14 schools with half or more of their places left empty. However, only three of these are on last year’s list, showing how popularity can change rapidly at this end of the scale, and making rational planning even more difficult.

 

Last modified on Wednesday, 16 July 2014 07:16

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