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Index

See article in Kent on Sunday, 27 May 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 but the new Bishop Chavasse Free School will ease matters; 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…...

Published in News and Comments

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. 

Published in Newspaper Articles

Index

I have now received a school by school breakdown of Reception and Junior school allocations for Kent for September 2016. As last year, these show a sharp contrast between pressure on spaces in urban districts and those in more rural areas. The multitude of local pressures focused on the towns see the biggest problems this year coming in Sevenoaks, no empty spaces, Maidstone, one space, Gravesham, three, and Tunbridge Wells seven, each in just one school.  Then come Ashford, Faversham and Tonbridge, each with two per cent of their places empty. Contrast this with Ashford’s rural areas, with 16% of empty spaces, and Shepway with 15%.

The most popular schools vary considerably year on year, 2016 being no exception, the top ten being: 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 (last year’s most oversubscribed school) and  Claremont in Tunbridge Wells all on 37; St Michael’s CofE Infant in Maidstone, 35, St Crispin’s Infant on 34; and Herne Infant on 33. Just five of these schools were in the top ten last year, with Loose more than doubling the number of disappointed families as it recovers from several difficult years.

You will find more information and a fuller District breakdown below, along with a section on Junior Schools at the foot of the article. I will as usual publish a similar article on Medway Primary schools as soon as possible but am still waiting for some data.....

Published in News and Comments

Singlewell Primary in Gravesend has 83% of its 30 reception class places awarded to siblings for September, the highest proportion in Kent, with just five ‘non-siblings’ awarded places on distance grounds, all living within 200 yards of the school. Another 25 children who listed the school in first place on their application form, most with a good expectation of a place in normal years, have been turned down. You will find a list of the other ‘sibling hot-spots’ further down this article.

Singlewell

 

The school with the smallest cut off distance this year, out of the 185 Kent primaries who use and have applied standard KCC oversubscription rules, at just 92 yards, is St Peter’s CofE Primary in Tunbridge Wells (Outstanding OFSTED. Eleven of the school's 20 places have gone to siblings, higher than the average which saw 43% of places awarded to siblings in oversubscribed schools.

St Peters TW

However, Tunbridge Wells also exposes a problem that arises from KCC’s use of temporary enlargements. Three TW schools have suffered from temporary enlargements each of 30 places for several years, followed by a subsequent removal of these places, which inevitably increases the proportion of siblings admitted whilst the number of children offered places on distance grounds shrinking. The most extreme example of this was at Bishops Down last year, when all 30 places went to siblings. Claremont and Pembury were also increased by 30 places each some years ago, but have now scaled back again to 60 places each. Bishops Down with 73% of siblings in 2015, has the second smallest catchment distance in the county with the five children who qualified through nearness all living less than 170 yards from the school. Fourth in the county on distance comes Claremont, with 67% siblings, the remainder all living closer than 181 yards from the school. Pembury, 16th tightest in the county on distance also has two thirds of its intake as siblings, those qualifying on distance all living less than 288 yards from the school. KCC was heavily criticised by the Schools Adjudicator in 2012 for using such temporary enlargements without working through the consequences…..

Published in News and Comments

I now have a full breakdown of Kent primary school allocations for admission in September, following my previous post of preliminary information. Headlines are:

There appears to be a crisis in provision of primary school places in a number of Kent towns, with Dartford, Folkestone, and Sevenoaks each with NO vacancies in any school on primary school Reception age allocation last month. Ashford, Gravesend/Northfleet, Maidstone, and Tunbridge Wells have 2% vacancies, with Broadstairs/Ramsgate 3%. In addition, rural Sevenoaks also has just 2% vacancies. KCC has a target of there being at least 5% vacancies which is broadly achieved in each of their twelve Districts that each embrace both town and country.

The most oversubscribed primary school is Sandgate Primary with 67 first choices turned away.

Sandgate 

It is followed by: Michael’s CofE Infants, Maidstone 60; Holy Trinity & St John’s CofE , Margate 58; St Joseph’s Catholic, Northfleet 48; Priory Infant, Ramsgate 47; Great Chart, Ashford & Brunswick House, Maidstone 45; Cobham, Gravesham 44; St John’s Catholic, Gravesend 43; Fleetdown, Dartford 38; and Chilton, Ramsgate 34. all but one of which are in or adjacent to these towns. Claremont Primary, Tunbridge Wells, which has receive much media attention because of its oversubscription, only comes in at 13th, at 32. Just four of these  ten schools are the same as 2014 admissions, showing the difficulty in forecasting demand.

Thirteen schools will be at least half empty in their Reception year in September, headed by Lower Halstow at 77% with just seven of its 30 places taken up, and Charing at 70%, with six of its 20 places filled. Again, such is the changing pattern of admissions, that just four of the thirteen were in the same plight in 2014.

Fuller details on all individual districts highlighting individual areas and schools under pressure below.....

Published in News and Comments

 Good news for most Kent and Medway parents as the proportion of children in both Authorities to be offered places later today in a Reception class at a school of their choice, and also in their first choice school, has risen compared with 2014 figures and the against the national trend.

The headline figures are that: 

  1. All overall statistics for Kent and Medway are  an improvement on 2014 figures.
  2. Kent has 85.81% of children awarded their first choice school, up nearly 1% on 2014, Medway 87.08% over 1% higher than 2014.
  3. Number of children placed in Kent is 17,415, up by 318 on 2014, in Medway by 200.
  4. Seven new primary academies are opening in Kent in September, creating 240 additional places.
  5. Sadly, 724 Kent and 126 Medway children have not been offered any school of their choice.
Published in News and Comments

I was interviewed on ITV Good Morning Britain this morning about the pressures on primary school places. The issue was precipitated by a paper from the Local Government Association attacking government lack of provision and planning for school places, and I contributed to the debate continuing on Radio Kent through the day.

The claim may well be true but, the timing of this paper was extremely insensitive (deliberately so?), just two days before the national closing date for primary school admission and guaranteed to worry many parents whose applications for school places have already been submitted.  The government response referred to ‘scaremongering’, and whilst I disagree with much of the rest of their case, sadly I think this word is correct.

Yes there are and will be problems ahead for many local families,  and the main problem areas for 2014 entry in Kent and Medway were described previously in these pages. However, the fact remains that in Kent in 2014, a high 85% of children were allocated their first choice school and just 5% were offered none of their choices. Medway’s figures were very similar at 86% and 5%. However, Kent anticipates an additional 15,000 school places will be needed over the next five years, and it is not yet clear where all these will come from.  

The politics of education are getting more unpleasant as we head towards the General Election,....

Published in Peter's Blog

This newspaper article is an expanded version of a news item elsewhere on this website, looking at the pressure on primary school places in Kent.

There has been much comment in the national media on the growing shortage of primary school places and Kent is no exception. I am now receiving concerned enquiries almost daily from families who have moved into or are planning to move into the area and are finding no suitable school, or in some cases no school at all being offered. Others have been allocated schools they didn’t apply to and are now finding out the reasons for the lack of popularity of some of these. Key pressure areas include: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent; and much of Medway, especially Chatham, Rainham and Rochester. 

 The problems of what are called In Year transfers are exemplified by an email circulated to primary school headteachers in Gravesham at the beginning of September by the Local Authority desperately seeking places for 23 children in the Borough (9 in Dartford) in Years 1,2 and 3 without a place........

Published in Newspaper Articles
Monday, 15 September 2014 00:00

Pressures on Primary Places in Kent and Medway

You will find an expanded version of this item in an article I wrote for Kent on Sunday published 21st September 2014

 

There has been much comment in the national media on the growing shortage of primary school places and Kent is no exception. In May I wrote articles on primary allocations in Kent and Medway, identifying some of the pressure areas as: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent; and much of Medway, especially Chatham, Rainham and Rochester.

I am now receiving concerned enquiries almost daily from families who have moved into or are planning to move into the area and are finding no suitable school, or in some cases no school at all being offered. Others have been allocated schools they didn’t apply to and are now finding out the problems. These are exemplified by an email circulated to primary school headteachers in Gravesham at the beginning of September by the Local Authority desperately seeking places for 23 children in the Borough (9 in Dartford) in Years 1,2 and 3 without a place.

In 2012 KCC drew up a Commissioning Plan which developed a strategy for creating the 10000 new places needed by 2016. This is already creaking at the seams and the overarching principles set down to guide it appear a distant memory.

I am not sure what, if any, strategy is being followed by Medway Council.....

Published in News and Comments

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 ....

Published in Newspaper Articles
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  • Complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman

    News headlines have reported that there were more complaints to the Local Government Ombudsman (LGO) against Kent education and social services last year than any other Authority, a total of 89, perhaps unsurprising as KCC is the largest Local Authority in the country. 

    I have been looking at complaints about school admissions, exclusions, transport and Special Needs in Kent and Medway. For KCC and Foundation schools, but excluding academies and Free Schools which are considered elsewhere, there was a total of 35 complaints, most against Independent Appeal Panels and their decisions over school admissions. Injustice was found in just 6 complaints, most for delays in making Special Needs provision, several of which were resolved by a small financial settlement. I am anticipating one further outstanding complaint to be upheld shortly.

    In Medway, one out of three complaints was upheld, again for a Special Needs issue, although no injustice was found.

    Read more...
    Written on Saturday, 12 August 2017 10:22 Be the first to comment! Read 155 times
  • Tough Love Academies: Ebbsfleet; Hartsdown; Oasis Isle of Sheppey

    I have been looking at Kent schools that have abnormally large numbers of pupils dropping out before completing their statutory education, and trying to work out some of the reasons. Three schools leap to the fore because of their exceptional disciplinary requirements, which are clearly unpopular with families, but I also look at several other schools of note below.

    Each of these three Kent schools have featured in the media in the last year because of controversial and tough disciplinary policies, often on minor uniform issues, designed to raise standards of behaviour and which they claim will make them popular with families.  They also all have large parts of their hinterland which are areas of social deprivation.

    However, they share two other common characteristics which raise serious questions about this approach. Families try to avoid all three when choosing secondary schools; and all three have a large number of children being removed from the school to take up Elective Home Education. I look at the relevant data below, along with a look at the approach of each school individually.

    Read more...
    Written on Wednesday, 19 July 2017 10:26 10 comments Read 973 times
  • Advice on Sixth Form Non-admission and Exclusions: Maidstone Girls' and Invicta Grammars

    Back in January, the Kent Messenger headlined an article with ‘Maidstone: Headteachers of Invicta Grammar and MGGS rubbish unlawful admissions claims(comments at the foot of the article).

    This was in response to my website article: ‘Maidstone Girls and Invicta Grammar Schools: Sixth Form Admissions’ exposing the unlawful practices at both schools . The article attracted an unprecedented 23,717 visitors to date along with enquiries from across the country and local and national media. With GCSE and AS results time coming up shortly, this second article is written to help advise families who find themselves in similar situations.

    invicta        MGGS

    With regard to the Maidstone Grammar School for Girls, the Local Government Ombudsman will be publishing a decision in September, which is currently embargoed, but I am able to offer advice below to families placed in a similar situation.

    The Headteacher of Invicta Grammar School  made the ridiculous claim that all 22 girls who left Year 12 from the school last summer did so of their own accord, having failed to achieve the school’s high expectations at AS Levels. This has been powerfully refuted by over twenty testimonies from girls who were forced out in this and previous years, mostly published as comments to be found at the foot of my previous article. Although this practice is not uncommon in other schools, although rarely on this scale, no one has challenged my claim that such permanent exclusions are illegal, including the Department of Education. I explore the rules that confirm this, below. 

    So, hardly rubbish in either case; instead very serious issues for the students concerned, for whom neither school appears to have had any pastoral care or responsibility.

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 03 August 2017 20:24 5 comments Read 507 times
  • 2015-16 School Exclusions and Home Education: Medway has no strategy for dealing with record numbers

    Update: See article in Kent on Sunday. Full version here

     Government statistics for Permanent and Fixed Term Exclusions, published today, show that Medway schools are for the third consecutive year amongst the worst in the country for excluding children. Taken in conjunction with the very large number of children leaving Medway schools for Elective Home Education, it is no surprise that Medway Council is unlawfully trying to hide the relevant data as explained below and in a previous article entitled: Medway Council: Incompetent Again.

    For 2015-16, 81 children were permanently excluded from Medway schools, 78 of them from secondary schools. This is the highest exclusion rate in the South East of England, with the secondary school exclusion rate being over twice as large as any other Local Authority. Nationally, Medway is joint 7th worst in the country for permanent exclusions, and up 35% on 2014-15. Compare this with Kent, six times as large as Medway, with permanent exclusions down to 58, including 49 for secondary schools, see below.

    There were 3,295 fixed term exclusions in Medway schools, again the highest rate in the South East, and 9th highest in the country, up 12% on 2014-15. Further, the average number of days of fixed term exclusion per Medway pupil was 7.3 days, the highest figure in the country. 

    Accompanying all this are the 377 Medway pupils who ‘opted’ for Elective Home Education, many of whom will have left school against the threat of exclusion, and again a very high figure in proportion to other Authorities, and whilst a massive increase on 2014-15's figure of 239 pupils, an astonishing and frightening tenfold increase on 2013-14's 38.  

    In total, this represents a frighteningly high number of Medway children being abandoned by the system, and which will inevitably lead many to troubled lives, and long term cost to society. It clear from my analysis below that Medway Council has no idea what to do about the problem, if indeed it wants to do anything. 

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 20 July 2017 21:37 1 comment Read 323 times
  • Academy and Free School News: July 2017

    There has been plenty of activity on the Academy and Free School scene over the five months since my previous article on this theme. There are eleven new academies in Kent, and seven in Medway, as detailed below. There are also another ten new applications for conversion and approvals for eleven new Free Schools in Kent and Medway.

    Three struggling secondary schools have been taken over to become sponsored academies.

    You will find further details on all these developments below, together with the only up to date comprehensive list of academies, Multi-Academy Trusts (MATs) and Free Schools including applications for conversion in Kent and Medway which is available on this site through the links below. Much of my data comes from the DofE website and a number of other sources, including the OFSTED website for the latest conversions.

    This article also looks at matters relating to Folkestone Academy, Holcombe Grammar , Meopham School, Rainham Mark Grammar, The Sevenoaks Grammar School Annexe, and Spires Academy, together with a closer look at possibly the country's smallest MAT, in Medway. 

    Read more...
    Written on Friday, 14 July 2017 14:54 1 comment Read 524 times
  • 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…….

    Read more...
    Written on Sunday, 11 June 2017 13:05 2 comments Read 443 times