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Tuesday, 15 March 2016 23:10

Kent on Sunday: Oversubscription and vacancies in Kent Secondary schools on allocation for September 2016.

This article looks across Kent to the key oversubscription and vacancy situations in grammar and non-selective schools,  the latter town by town. Pressure points such as Dartford Grammar, 226 first choice applications oversubscribed, one of the most academically successful schools in the county, followed by St George’s CofE Foundation School in Broadstairs, with 161 first choices turned away, second lowest performing school at GCSE in the county.

For further information on the story visit here for grammar schools and here for non-selective schools.

High vacancy rates, threatening a vicious circle of financial losses, which have led to the closure of four schools in the past three years, need to be tackled by Astor College, Castle Community College, Hayesbrook School, High Weald Academy, New Line Learning, and Swadelands School, all with over a third of their provision empty in Year 7.

Kent has seen an extra 704 places put into its secondary schools above the numbers planned for admission this, to meet rising rolls in several areas. As a result, the number of pupils offered their first choice rose by 363, and the number being offered none of their four choices fell by 213 children to just 428, the lowest figure for some years. However, this made little difference to the pressure on popular schools which has never been greater.'''

GRAMMAR SCHOOLS
Dartford Grammar School, the most oversubscribed school in the county,  turned away 226 grammar qualified pupils soaring up from 127 last year, with 81 of its 150 places going to out of county (ooc) boys. Sadly, because the school has recently introduced a cap of 90 on the number of local boys, places going to the highest scorers, many grammar qualified Dartford boys have been rejected from their local school, in spite of protestations when the new system was introduced that this would not happen.

Second most popular grammar school was Tonbridge Grammar with 142 first choices turned away, up from 77 in 2015, followed by Dartford Girls Grammar with 119 up from 95, again sadly with a number of local girls turned away, but letting in 65 ooc girls, having increased its capacity by extra 20 girls.

The other two grammar schools in Dartford were also both well oversubscribed, although both changed their admission rules to give priority to Kent children for most of their places, with Wilmington Grammar Boys turning away 49 first choices and the Girls Grammar 34. The number of out county boys to Wilmington fell sharply from 91 to 32 as a result of the changes, with Wilmington Girls’ fall from 105 to 91.

It was very pleasing to see that The Judd School in Tonbridge, 97 first choices oversubscribed, has also changed its admission rules to give priority to those living in the locality for all but 20 boys. As a result, the number of Kent children to be admitted is rising to 141 out of 155, up from 114 in 2015. However, the ooc pressure on The Skinners School in Tunbridge Wells which has no such rules, increased to compensate up to 45 out of county boys from 26. Still in West Kent, Weald of Kent Grammar was oversubscribed by 55 grammar qualified first choices, even though it has increased its number of places by 55 to 230 girls, in preparation for its expansion into the Sevenoaks Annexe next year. The surge in applications to the two Tonbridge Girls’ grammars has been very much at the expense of Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Girls.

Other popular grammar schools were: Maidstone Grammar Boys’, 38 first choices oversubscribed, although 11 down on 2015, and Sir Roger Manwood’s at 32, which had four vacancies last year at this time.

The myth that Kent grammar schools are always oversubscribed is definitely not true, with nine of the 32 having vacancies at this time, although many of the empty desks will fill through appeals. The schools with more than 10 spaces are: Maidstone Grammar for Girls; Chatham & Clarendon; Dover Boys’ (following a late increase in admission number of 30); Barton Court; and Borden.

NON-SELECTIVE SCHOOLS
The District sections below describe the picture on allocation day March 1st. Between now and September, many more places will become available after successful grammar school appeals.
 
THANET
Most popular non-selective school was St George’s CofE Foundation School in Broadstairs, with 161 first choices rejected, just up on last year’s 150 when it topped the list for all schools in the county. This is in spite of it being one of the lowest performing schools at GCSE in the county indicating the unpopularity of some of the other choices open to parents. Thanet is one of a number of Kent Districts where there is pressure on places, with just 14 spaces across the six non-selectives at present. However, there is enormous polarisation as families chase the three most popular schools, St George’s, King Ethelbert 72 first choices oversubscribed and Charles Dickens 30. At the other end, the new Royal Harbour Academy, which has absorbed the now closed notorious Marlowe Academy, has been allocated 56 children who were not offered any of their choices out of the 196 who were offered places, and Hartsdown Academy with 43 allocations. Between them these two schools have absorbed nearly a quarter of the Kent children with no school of their choice.
 
GRAVESHAM
Second most popular non-selective school in Kent is St George’s CofE School in Gravesend, with 123 rejected first choices, a giant leap up from last year’s 63 when it was 12th in the popularity list. Gravesham has come under enormous pressure this year, with an additional 76 places being created in three schools, but still leaving just 5 empty spaces in the Borough. Second most popular school here was St John’s Catholic Comprehensive, 40 first choices oversubscribed.
 
MAIDSTONE
Third most popular school is Valley Park, turning away 116 first choices, even though it has expanded yet again, by 30 places to 270. The only other school significantly oversubscribed is St Simon Stock, Catholic at 36, but two schools appear to be in trouble, New Line Learning, with 96 vacancies for its 210 places, not including 12 Local Authority Allocations, and Swadelands in Lenham that has recently been placed in Special Measures by OFSTED, with 74 of its 150 places empty. I hear that Swadelands is to be taken over by Valley Invicta Academy Trust, which is also sponsoring the proposed new six form entry Maidstone School of Science and Technology, although there appear problems here as no news has come out of the proposal for at least six months and surely construction ought to be beginning soon for a 2017 start. This will pump an additional 180 places into Maidstone which could well finish off one of the two vulnerable schools; ironic if it were to be Swadelands!
 
SWALE
The next two most popular schools are in Swale - Fulston Manor and Westlands, oversubscribed by 97 and 91 places respectively, most of the pressure coming from the Isle of Sheppey as aspiring families seek to avoid the struggling Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy which, as a result has 65 vacancies even after 53 children were allocated to it who didn’t apply there. To be fair, this is Kent’s largest secondary school (along with Homewood in Tenterden) with a planned admission number of 390. 
 
ASHFORD
The Wye Free School, smallest intake in Kent at 90 children, opened three years ago against the will of Kent County Council, but is proving very popular with parents, situated as it is in a lovely rural village, drawing off children from the large Ashford schools, and with 51 children oversubscribed. As a result, The North School, still not recovered from its Special Measures and take over by Swale Academy Trust, and the Towers School in neighbouring Kennington, are both suffering, with 42 and 67 vacancies respectively. Meanwhile the good and improving John Wallis Academy is now oversubscribed for the first time having shed a previous reputation. 
 
CANTERBURY
There has been pressure in Canterbury since the closing of Chaucer Technology School two years ago, eased this year by the addition of 70 places in three Canterbury schools. This still leaves no places in any school except struggling Community College Whitstable with 67 vacancies even after 25 Local Authority Allocations of children who did not apply for the school. Canterbury Academy, Herne Bay and St Anselm’s Catholic are the most oversubscribed, with 76, 48 and 46 first choices rejected, respectively.
 
DARTFORD
Dartford has been under pressure since the sudden closure of Oasis Hextable Academy last year, with the three schools of the Leigh Academy Trust being collectively oversubscribed by 253 first choices, Leigh Academy having been the most popular school in Kent for some years. Three years ago it accounted for 235 first choices rejected on its own; but this year, the Academies popularity has waned considerably, with Wilmington Academy looking the most popular, having added 40 places to its previous 200, and still being 27 oversubscribed (but 94 in 2015); Leigh Academy itself turning away 49 first choices.
 
DOVER
This comes at the other end of the scale, with Dover District having a quarter of its places empty and just one school oversubscribed, Sandwich Technology at 77 first choices turned away. Many of those rejected will be families unable to secure schools in Canterbury, or trying to flee unpopular schools in Thanet and Deal. Most vacancies occur at Astor College, 86 and at Castle Community College, Deal - 68, which has had a torrid time since its fall from grace as an Outstanding school just three years ago, straight into Special Measures.
 
SEVENOAKS
As with Wye Free School, the Trinity School, opened at the same time, has proved hugely popular with parents and is about to transfer into new buildings, being 51 first choices oversubscribed for its 120 places. It competes with the much larger Knole Academy, also very popular, being 67 first choices oversubscribed, attracting 35 children from across the County boundary in Bromley.
 
SHEPWAY
The proposed closure of Pent Valley School this summer has been alleviated by 57 new places being opened at Brockhill Park and Folkestone Academy, although 34 children have still applied for and been offered places at Pent Valley, who will now need to be allocated elsewhere. school of choice is Brockhill, with 62 disappointed first choices, Folkestone Academy, until recently one of the most popular schools in Kent, just filling. 
 
TUNBRIDGE WELLS
All three schools in the town remain oversubscribed, in spite of a collective injection of 106 additional places, St Gregory’s turning away 34 first choices. 47 of Bennett’s places go to children from East Sussex. The three rural schools in the District all have vacancies, the high performing High Weald still having half its 150 places empty, despite having reduced from 180 in 2015.
 
OTHER SCHOOLS
Holmesdale Community College in Snodland is as usual the school with the largest ooc contingent, attracting 41 children from Medway, but still has 47 empty spaces. 

Two of Kent’s highest performing schools at GCSE, Hayesbrook and High Weald Academy in Cranbrook, are far less successful at attracting students, with 84 and 75 vacancies respectively, both with an Admission number of 150.

OUT OF COUNTY
As always, there was much media publicity for the 803 out of county children taking up places in Kent schools, many of which are identified above. There is never notice of the 460 going out of Kent to other Local Authorities. These include 165 to grammar schools in Medway, Bexley and Bromley, and 78 to the four large neighbouring comprehensive schools in East Sussex.


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  • Oversubscription & Vacancies in Medway Primary schools: Allocation for September 2017

    The proportion of children offered one of their choices in a Medway primary school has risen to 97.4%, the highest proportion for at least five years. This is a result of a reduction of 160 in the number of Medway school places taken up by children from the Authority and outside. As a result, there are 432 vacancies across the 67 schools, which is 12% of the total available, up from 7% in 2016.

    Most difficult area as usual is Rainham, with just 8 vacancies in two of its schools, a total of 2%. of the total number of places.  At the other end is Rochester with 17% of all places left empty in five schools. Most popular school is Barnsole Primary which turned away 52 first choices, followed by Walderslade and Pilgrim primaries with 29 disappointed first choices for their 30 places. There are ten schools with more than first choices turned away, nine in Chatham and Gillingham, listed in the table below. 

    Barnsole     Pilgrim 3    Walderslade Primary 2  

    Eight schools have over a third of their places empty, up from five in 2016, but headed for the second year running by All Hallows Primary Academy, with 70% of its Reception places empty (up from 60% in 2016). Altogether 31 of the 67 primary schools have vacancies in their Reception classes. 85 Medway children  were offered none of their choices and have been allocated to other schools with vacancies by Medway Council, well over half in Chatham and Gillingham schools.  

    look more closely at each Medway area below, together with the situation for Junior Schools…….

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    Written on Sunday, 11 June 2017 13:05 Be the first to comment! Read 182 times
  • Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust: Will anyone be held to account?

    BBC South East is running an item on this story, tonight, January 12th at 6.30 p.m.

    The 2016 Accounts for the Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust (LSSAT), a charitable company (!), finally lay bare the rottenness behind the Trust.

    The Lilac Sky Schools Trust is carrying a net deficit of £1,329,631 on these funds because: 

    The Trust incurred extortionate and expensive Founder/ substantive CEO consultancy  costs for 232 days at a net cost of £217,500 along with other high cost  support  services,  central  Trust  staffing  costs that were far higher  than average,  the cost of  settlement  agreements  (contractual  and non-contractual) paid to staff who were immediately appointed as consultants by the company and recharged  to  the Trust, minimal  value for money procedures and a lack of competitive  tendering.

    2016 Accounts Page 38

     These accounts are prepared by new Trustees, appointed 8 June 2016 to sort out the mess, described as emergency interim appointments, who do not mince their words with regard to the previous management of the Trust. LSSAT handed over its academies to other Trusts on 31st December 2016, and is currently being wound up, possibly with government financial aid. See below in blue.  

    I am not an accountant but the shocking detail in the Report is plain to see and builds further on my exposure in the 2015 Accounts, of the Trust being run as a Money Tree by those in control. Of course, this is at the expense of the pupils in the seven local primary schools run by the Trust, and other casualties along the way.  

    LSSAT Logo

    For those with a long memory, I first identified the methods used by Lilac Sky in 2013 to siphon off school funds by ripping off Furness School and I faced excoriation from KCC who continued to insist Lilac Sky was wonderful for some years afterwards, the school closing in 2015, with £1.6 million having gone missing, apparently with no one noticing. Since then I have covered the appalling story of Lilac Sky through  a number of articles, accessible through my search engine, most recently here.   

    There are of course many other examples of entrepreneurs taking large sums out of academies, but these normally remain hidden, and it often requires independent Trustees to winkle out the truth, as has happened here.

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    Written on Tuesday, 06 June 2017 17:49 1 comment Read 579 times
  • The scandals of Oasis Academy, Isle of Sheppey

    Update, Thursday: Further information  on Reflection at foot of article, in blue. 

    Between September and April this year, 33 children at Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey (OAIS) have ‘left’ the school to take up Elective Home Education (EHE), some having reportedly been encouraged to do so, which would be unlawful. This figure is almost twice that of the next two Kent schools, Cornwallis Academy and Ebbsfleet Academy, which both saw 17 children leave to be ‘Home Educated’.

    Oasis Image

     Other OAIS pupils were sent to the Swale Inclusion Centre, and removed from the school’s Register, the removal having the effect of deleting the pupils GCSE record from school examination performance, as explained in a previous article, here.

    The school also sent some Year 11 pupils home early in May for compulsory ‘Study Leave’ without tuition, whilst the others continued to be prepared for their GCSEs in school. This action amounts to what is often called an ‘informal exclusion’, which is unlawful.

    Some of these children will previously have endured the Reflection punishment, which requires pupils to sit in a room and ‘Reflect’ on their behaviour for a whole day, an utterly unrealistic expectation that a day of boredom will improve matters. Astonishingly, 39% of the whole student body has been subject to this humiliating punishment, many on multiple occasions. The reality is that Reflection is utterly destructive, inevitably producing antagonism towards and alienation from the school, is almost certainly unlawful as the child has been forcibly deprived of education without provision for catching up, and indeed could be regarded as child abuse.

    Reports of bullying are rife.

    As with other out of control academies described in these pages previously, there appears little proper accountability apart from a recent Ofsted Inspection that appears not to have noticed key signals. Meanwhile, children's futures are being blighted.....
    Written on Saturday, 03 June 2017 12:39 10 comments Read 2544 times
  • Medway Test 2017: Late notification of Important Change

    Update: The value of the following item is underlined by the interest shown by browsers. 1500 hits in the first two days makes this the second most popular item on the website this year - in third place is the article Medway Test Scores Blunder - Medway fails families yet againconfirming once again the lack of confidence Medway families have in their Council's education operation. 

    The Council sent a letter to schools last week announcing that it is changing its Test provider from GL Assessment to CEM (Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring) for the forthcoming Medway Test in September. Unfortunately, the two testing providers have different interpretations of the assessment procedure, as explained here. The CEM Verbal Reasoning Test is far more language based than the GL model (which is used by Kent), including vocabulary and normally comprehension, as can be seen by a glance at the above link together with model answers provided by commercial companies. It will account for 20% of the aggregate Test marks which, together with the 40% for the Free Writing Test, will make this a highly language based selection method. It will therefore discriminate against children from socially deprived areas who are often weaker in language skills, children with English as a second Language, boys, and those who don't hear of or appreciate the change being made. The Council’s letter to schools gives no rationale for this change of approach or warning of the effects of the change, so presumably it is not for educational reasons, but simply a cost cutting exercise. 

    Neither does it do anything whatever to address the other serious problems I have previously identified in the Medway Test process, missing a golden opportunity in its recent review of the procedure, which appears to have reached no conclusions. It also comes close on after last year's debacle of the 2016 Test.   

    In addition, the Council has suddenly dispensed with the services of its highly experienced Free Writing Test setter, and at the time of writing does not appear to have re-employed any of its trained markers, although there is no change in the processes. It is not yet clear who is going to provide these essential skills this year.

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    Written on Monday, 29 May 2017 19:59 3 comments Read 2809 times
  • Oversubscription & Vacancies in Kent Primary schools: Allocation for September 2017

     2017 has been a very good year for Primary school admissions in Kent with 97.4% of families being awarded a school place of their choice, up from 96.6% in 2016. This has been brought about by a combination of 267 extra places created since the 2016 allocations including 30 in one new school, together with a remarkable fall of 679 children or 3.8% in the total applying for places. Overall there are 11.1% vacant places in the Reception classes, rising sharply from 6.5% in 2016. This article follows on from my first look at the general data, here, and explores the pressure areas looking at oversubscription and vacancies across the county.

    There are still local pressures focused on several towns including: Tonbridge with just one vacancy in one school; Ashford, two vacancies, apart from 14 in a school on the outskirts; Sevenoaks,  full apart from 18 places in one school on the outskirts of town; and Tunbridge Wells just one school with 24 vacancies. However, overall there is a far better picture than last year. Contrast these with: Ashford Rural; Faversham; Maidstone Rural; Shepway Rural & Hythe; and Swanley & District; all with a fifth or more places empty in their schools. 

    Once again the most popular schools vary considerably from last year, with just Great Chart, Ashford (3rd in 2016) and Fleetdown in Dartford (first last year) occurring in top 10s for both years. Most popular school is Slade Primary in Tonbridge, turning away 43 first choices, followed by Great Chart with 41. You will find the full list of high preferences below.

    Slade             Great Chart

    At the other end of the scale, one unfortunate school with a Good OFSTED, and sound KS2 results had no first choices, and offered just one place (!), whilst another 17 schools have more than half of their places empty, a sharp rise on last year. As financial pressures mount in schools, such low numbers would become critical if repeated.

    I look at each district in more detail below, with a brief note on admission to Junior Schools.  The outcomes for Medway primary schools will follow shortly…...

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    Written on Monday, 15 May 2017 09:38 5 comments Read 3767 times
  • Kent & Medway OFSTED Reports to Easter

    Kent primary school OFSTED Reports up to Easter show considerable improvement on an already strong position as shown in the summary tables below. Outcomes include 15 schools, a fifth of the 72 inspected, improving their assessment as against just 3 which declined. The proportion of Good or Outstanding Schools inspected is well above the most recent national figure, with seven Outstanding schools.  Four schools improved their grading by two levels; Aylesford Primary; Chantry Community Academy and Tymberwood Academy (both in Gravesham), taking them out of Special Measures to Good; and Cliftonville Primary to Outstanding. Two other schools, Pilgrim’s Way Canterbury, and Copperfields Academy also in Gravesham, were taken out of Special Measures. All the last six are academies. By coincidence two of these, Chantry (Greenacre Academy Trust) and Pilgrim’s Way (Village Academy Trust) are advertisers on this website, both Academy Trusts taking over after previous failed conversions, the other four Trusts inheriting their schools directly from KCC control. 

    Chantry             Pilgrims Way    

     Cliftonville

    You will find a summary of the current position for Kent schools written by Mr Patrick Leeson, Director of Education, here, although it omits the most recent Inspections of schools that have become academies and not been re-inspected, following government practice. The Kent schools affected include 11 who were judged Inadequate in their most recent Inspection.

    In Medway, just 8 primary schools were inspected with a slight decline in performance, and still well below national levels. One Medway Primary school was found Outstanding, Cliffe Woods Primary, for the second time. Gordon Children's Academy Junior School improved by two Grades to Good, matching the Infant School which retained its Good status. 

     
    Of the  22 Kent and Medway secondary schools inspected, 17 were found Good, five Requiring Improvement, with just one change from the schools' previous assessments.
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    Written on Saturday, 15 April 2017 19:39 Be the first to comment! Read 373 times