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I now have further information on Primary school allocations to individual schools, to expand on my previous article on allocation day, 16th April 2014.

Riverhead 2

Most popular primary school in Kent is once again Riverhead Infants School  in Sevenoaks, turning away 69 first choices, followed by St John’s Catholic Primary in Gravesham (50), reflecting the very difficult pressures in the Borough.

St Johns Gravesend

Next come: Slade Primary in Tonbridge (47); West Hill Primary in Dartford, Madginford Park Infants in Maidstone and Priory Infants in Ramsgate  all turning away 42 disappointed first choices. Minster in Sheppey (41), St John’s CofE in Tunbridge Wells  (38). St Joseph’s Catholic in Northfleet, last year's most oversubscribed school (36) brings the total up to 9, with tenth place being shared by: Brent in Dartford; Palm Bay in Margate; St Crispins’ Community Infant,  Westgate on Sea, Thanet and St James CofE VA Infants in Tunbridge Wells, all with 35 disappointed first choices.  

You will find a list of last year’s most oversubscribed schools here. Below, you will find a brief analysis of the most pressured districts: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge.......

Published in News and Comments

With this week’s news that Kent’s first Garden City is to be built in Ebbsfleet, we also learn that six of the most oversubscribed schools in Kent and Medway are in neighbouring Dartford, so there is already immense pressure on provision and it will be essential to get the education infrastructure in place at an early stage.

Dartford Grammar School has not only expanded its intake by 30 to 150 boys this year it has turned away 146 grammar qualified applicants who put it first choice, to take top spot for popularity amongst grammar schools. Leigh Academy keeps its top spot in Kent for non-selective schools, having rejected 106 first choices. Dartford Girls Grammar turned away 89, with three other Dartford schools also heavily oversubscribed. These are Wilmington Academy (44), and the two Wilmington Grammar Schools, the Boys having extended its intake by 30 but still being 28 places oversubscribed. Wilmington Girls is full for the first time in some years, turning away 20 grammar qualified first choices. 

Elsewhere, as usual the pressure on boys’ grammar school places is very high in West Kent,.......

Published in Newspaper Articles

An abbreviated version of this article appeared in Kent on Sunday 0n 25th March 2012. It is drawn from two other articles on this website: Oversubscription and Vacancies; and Movement in and out of the County

Information from KCC and Medway under FOI requests, reveals considerable change in the pattern of secondary school applications this year. The focus is on grammar school patterns of admission in West Kent. There is a considerable swing in grammar school assessments from East to West, driven by parental pressure to secure grammar school places, and the intense coaching culture which becomes self–fulfilling. This is combined with pressure from children along the boundary to the West and NW, and from London Boroughs stretching through to Lewisham, with a total of 211 out of county children taking up places in these Kent grammar schools. Not surprisingly there are many grammar qualified Kent children without a grammar school place, predominantly girls in the south of the area, and boys in the north. Thus the top seven oversubscribed grammar schools in Kent are all in the West, turning away an average of 90 children each. Top this year is Skinners, rejecting a record 138 first choice applicants, followed in order by:  Dartford Grammar; Tonbridge Grammar; Dartford Girls; The Judd; Tunbridge Wells Girls; Tunbridge Wells Boys; and Weald of Kent. What is not always realised is that this is balanced by over 300 children going the other way, mainly into comprehensive schools over the border. Most oversubscribed grammar schools in Medway are Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School, Rochester and Rochester Grammar School.

Another major issue arising from this tilt, is the number of vacant spaces in East Kent Grammars led by Harvey Grammar, Folkestone with 73, followed closely by Folkestone School for Girls. Then, in order: Highworth, Ashford; Clarendon House, Ramsgate; Barton Court, Canterbury; Mayfield, Gravesend; Borden, Sittingbourne;  Chatham House, Ramsgate; and Highsted, Sittingbourne. Three others, Invicta Grammar and Oakwood Park Grammar both in Maidstone, and Wilmington Grammar Girls are full only because KCC have allocated children there, who were unsuccessful elsewhere. Two Medway Grammar Schools, Chatham Boys and Chatham girls have over a hundred spaces between them, as numbers of children in Medway drops sharply

What is clear is that the eleven plus is failing able children in East Kent, we can see these schools looking to different methods of assessing children, as already happens in the two Dover Grammar Schools, both full as a result. Presumably, one can expect to see higher than normal success rates at appeal at many of these schools, as the balance is righted.

Most popular non-selective school remains Leigh Technology Academy, turning away 193 disappointed first choices, followed by Longfield Academy with 91. The pressure on these schools is caused by lack of alternatives in the area, Dartford Technology College (girls) and Meopham School both having failed OFSTEDs and there being no boys’ non-selective school in the area. This explains why 100 Kent children went into non-selective schools in Bexley and Bromley.

Other popular Kent non selective schools disappointing more than 40 first choice applicants were (in order): Valley Park Community, Maidstone; Fulston Manor, Sittingbourne; North, Ashford; Westlands School, Sittingbourne; Hillview Girls, Tonbridge; Bennett Memorial, Tunbridge Wells; Archbishop’s, Canterbury;  King Ethelbert Academy, Westgate; and Cornwallis Academy, Maidstone. In Medway, Brompton Academy turned away a remarkable 79 first choices, even after increasing its Planned Admission Number by 30 to cope with its popularity, followed by Thomas Avelingl, and Greenacre. Sadly, one reason for the popularity of many of these schools is because parents wish to avoid other local schools.

There are three Kent schools with over 90 vacancies: Pent Valley, Folkestone; Marlowe Academy, Broadstairs; and Chaucer, Canterbury.  A total of 12 non-selective schools in Kent had more than a third of their places empty.

In Medway, discrepancies are even starker: Bishop of Rochester Academy has the highest number of vacancies at 135, being over half empty. This is followed by St John Fisher, Robert Napier, Strood Academy, and Hundred of Hoo. A key issue in Medway is the rapidly falling rolls which currently  accounts for 14% of all places being empty.

Government policy appears to be to encourage the free market in school places. Looking at the picture in Kent one can see that before long we are going to see casualties of this policy in our secondary schools, some of which will be in shiny new Academy buildings, costing tens of millions of pounds.  Never mind the children who of course are the real casualties of this game of monopoly. 

Published in Newspaper Articles

There is growing evidence that the principle of a single 11+ assessment in both Kent and Medway is under attack as grammar schools come under differing pressures and Academy freedoms allow Governing Bodies to  consider alternatives, as some become increasingly oversubscribed and others suffer from falling rolls in their areas. The issues surrounding the "super-selectives" are well documented. At the other end of the scale, the Dover Grammar schools have for some years run the Dover Tests offering an alternative means of access to their schools, which sees them fill, whereas under the Kent Test they would both be half empty (this doesn't stop Dover Girls Grammar from being one of the highest academic  achieving schools in the county). 

Now Chatham Grammar School for Boys & Chatham Grammar School for Girls have finished a consultation that proposes to offer places to children from 2013 onwards, who have passed either the Kent or the Medway Tests, and in addition for late applicants to be considered on the basis of alternative evidence of grammar school ability. This is in the face of falling numbers entering secondary schools in Medway for some years and for another four or five years to come.  

At the other end of the scale, the 'super-selective' grammar schools in West Kent and Dartford have spawned an intense coaching culture for children that sees their pass marks creep higher and higher. This year in the Kent Test, a record number of 589 children scored the maximum score of 420 (pass mark 360), around half coming from Kent primary schools, a proportion that is constant through all the top scores. I believe the required score for most of these schools will rise even higher this year, and anticipate .......

Published in News Archive

Latest News & Comments

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  • Leigh Academies Trust and The Williamson Trust to explore merger

    Update at foot of article

    The Leigh Academies Trust and the Williamson Trust are exploring a merger to take effect by 2019. You will find a joint statement by the two Academy Trusts here.  Leigh is considerably the larger of the two, with 17 academies, eight secondary, eight primary and one Special School, with two new Free schools in progress. The Williamson Trust has five schools, two secondary and three primary, having had Elaine Primary taken away from it earlier this year. 

    Whilst the Leigh Trust is a highly successful expansive Trust, with regional hubs in Dartford, SE London, Maidstone and Paddock Wood, and Medway, Williamson Trust has been beset by issues but brings the prestigious Sir Joseph Williamson's Grammar School to the table. The joint statement underlines the differences, with the Leigh section recording the wide range of its reach, noting 'the added expertise of a top grammar school' that will come from the merger. For the Williamson Trust, currently without a Chief Executive, there are: the 'potential benefits of a merger with such a significant and successful organisation'.

    Nothing has been settled, but this feels far more like a takeover than a merger if it happens. I look at the issues in more detail below. 

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 14 June 2018 11:47 5 comments Read 299 times
  • Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Primary Schools, 2018

    There has been a fall in pupil numbers taking up places in Kent Primary Reception Classes for the second year. There were also 49 additional permanent and temporary places created in the last year (after six schools had temporary classes removed). These two factors have produced an improvement in the proportion of families being offered schools of their choice as reported in my previous article on the initial data. The total number of children offered places in Kent reception classes on allocation in April is 17274, down by 121 on 2017’s 17395, and an even larger large fall from the 18066 of 2016.

    A number of schools have kept temporary increases in place for several years, so there can be confusion about changes in the number of places available since allocation in 2017. Although there are 539 new places since the official 2017 Planned Admission Number (PAN), the great majority of these have been in place for one or more years. 286 of the additional places have not been taken up. The actual increase includes 60 completely new places for the new Bishop Chavasse school in Tonbridge. As a result, there are vacancies in every District, including the urban areas. The tightest parts are Dartford, with just 3% vacancies and urban Maidstone and Sevenoaks with 4%, there also being a local issue in Northfleet. Comparison with my 2017 oversubscription and vacancy article shows the easing of numbers across the board.

    Brent Outstanding 1

    There is still no let-up in numbers chasing the most heavily oversubscribed schools, headed this year by Brent Primary in Dartford, turning away 73 first choices, followed by East Borough in Maidstone with 52 and Herne CofE Infant School with 43. Just two schools, Great Chart, Ashford and Cecil Road, Gravesham, have featured in the ten most oversubscribed schools in each of the last three years. The changes in popularity often reflect events relating to the schools such as Ofsted Reports and Key Stage 2 outcomes.

    East Borough Primary             Herne Infant

    The problem comes at the other end, with 22 schools having more than half their places empty, up from 18 in 2017, with six in both years, all of which will now be under financial pressure.

    I look at the issues in more detail below, including a survey of each separate District. You will find advice on what to do if you do not have the school or your choice here, and the reality of primary school appeals here

    Read more...
    Written on Sunday, 13 May 2018 19:06 2 comments Read 851 times
  • Turner Schools: Folkestone Academy, Turner Free School, Martello Primary and Morehall Primary.

    Last Updated 29/05

    One of the Turner School Visions:

    We follow Aristotle’s philosophy that educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all,

    which we interpret as being the whole person.

    Turner Schools, an Academy Trust whose leaders have no problem with schools being profit making enterprises, appears to be heading for difficulty with each of its four Folkestone projects. Currently Folkestone Academy is the only non-selective school serving the town. It is to be joined in September by the Turner Free School, to be opened on the site of the old Pent Valley School. The Trust also runs two Folkestone primary schools acquired in January 2017 from the failed and now closed Lilac Sky Schools Academy Trust and both struggling to attract pupils.

    One problem I, and surely most enquirers, have with the website for the Trust with its sections for  each of the four schools, is that it appears to be aimed at an audience of academics and teachers. This is in contrast with every other school website I have visited which set out to be attractive to parents and potential parents, providing them with much valuable information rather than empty words and aspirations.  

    I look at all four schools in more detail below on separate pages, underneath a broader look at the Trust, with the following links to each school: Turner Free School; Folkestone Academy; Morehall Primary & Martello Primary You can see a fascinating variety of views in the comments at the foot of the page. 

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 17 May 2018 12:27 27 comments Read 4492 times
  • Grammar Schools, Faith Schools, and Non-Selective Provision in Tunbridge Wells

    Updated 13th May

    This item covers the government announcement of £50 million to provide new grammar school places and the relaxation of rules for admission to faith schools. 

    The first issue was discussed on Meridian TV News on Friday to which I contributed, having previously discussed both issues including a previous article from last year, that looked across the landscape. This was updated with more recent coverage of the now likely provision of a Coastal Grammar annexe at Herne Bay or Whitstable, and the extension of the Weald of Kent Annexe. The latter is currently for girls only, but with premises offering capacity for boys, so approval does not appear to be finance related and presumably can be granted simply by a change in regulations. There may also be proposals from some of the more assertive grammar schools to look at annexes across the county boundary in Sussex and Surrey. 

    The second part of the government plan has attracted fewer headlines, and indeed appears toothless, whilst promoting a new generation of  Voluntary Aided faith schools. However, any built under this proposal (which appears little different from current regulations) will evade the current limit on new faith Free Schools, who can admit just 50% of their intake for children who qualify through faith criteria.

    The crisis in non-selective places in Tunbridge Wells has been brought about by church schools operating under the previous regulations, as explained below. 

    Read more...
    Written on Friday, 11 May 2018 14:12 2 comments Read 740 times
  • Medway UTC: Abject Failure -OFSTED

    Further update sentence in blue below.

    Updated: Tuesday 8th May. See important comment below by Ita Caufield.

    Ofsted has judged the new Medway University Technical College to have failed its Inspection on every count, some of its main criticisms being levelled at the members of the Governing Body who 'abrogated their responsibility'. Medway UTC is one of a new breed of 14-19 schools dropped in on existing school systems without thought for their impact elsewhere, with a horrendous record of success including five of the 26 inspected by Ofsted being placed in Special Measures. A further eight have closed through failure to attract students. The evidence below shows that Medway UTC is surely en route to be the eighth.

    The Medway UTC opened in September 2015 in £12 million purpose built premises, sponsored by local businesses, Higher Education Institutions and Medway Council.

    Medway UTC

    Ofsted found that: there is a culture of low expectation across the UTC; current progress in all year groups very weak; poor GCSE and A Level results last year as a result of weak teaching; the curriculum is too narrow; there is no provision for physical education or religious education in the school; behaviour in lessons is poor and sometimes disruptive. These are the consequences of: governors failing to offer sufficient challenge for leaders or training for leaders and teachers to carry out their duties effectively; of significant turbulence in staffing; leaders development plans being not fit for purpose; and failure by teachers to match assessment to the learning needs of pupils with the result that the most able, those with SEN, and the disadvantaged make very poor progress.

    I have never seen or read anything like the torrent of criticism heaped upon the quality of teaching in the school, as exemplified below. Frankly one would not expect such negative comments to be uttered about untrained instructors dropped in for their first term in a school. Academies and UTCs are not required to employ qualified teachers, and this report suggests they may have taken advantage of this loophole in full. I am astonished that Ofsted did not report on the issue, given there appears a complete breakdown in quality, with no redeeming factors identified.

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    Written on Saturday, 05 May 2018 11:25 9 comments Read 1152 times
  • Four Medway Secondary Academies abandon unlawful attempt to set Unfair Admission Criteria
    Update: Developments since the article was written are in blue in this introduction. 
    The Rochester Grammar School (RGS) and Holcombe Grammar School who are part of the Thinking Schools Academy Trust (TSAT), together with Hundred of Hoo Academy from the Williamson Trust, have withdrawn the sections in their 2019 proposed Admission Criteria that gave priority for admission to children of staff members of any school in the Trust, rather than just of their own school which would have been lawful. Sir Joseph Williamson's Mathematical School and The Thomas Aveling School have withdrawn all unlawful elements of their proposals. 

    This follows my previous article which made clear the proposals were unlawful (together with an objection lodged with TSAT), which is likely to have led to the change of policy. 

    However, RGS and Holcombe have retained a section offering priority to siblings of any child in a secondary academy of the Trust, rather than their own school which appears equally unlawful, as does Brompton Academy. 

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    Written on Tuesday, 17 April 2018 21:56 Be the first to comment! Read 465 times