I was invited on Radio Kent yesterday, to comment on the effects on schools of the decision by Redbridge Council to purchase Howe Barracks in Canterbury to house 208 of the families on their Housing Waiting List. Canterbury City Council also tried to purchase the premises but were outbid, so local homeless families have been deprived of this accommodation. Not surprisingly, there is concern about pressure on local services including schools.
In the past two months I have carried out surveys of Kent’s Primary and Secondary school allocations, for each District in Kent, looking at oversubscription and vacancies, the summary position for Canterbury is that at the time of allocation of places, there were 74 vacant spaces at Reception Year and not one for Year Seven in non-selective schools.
However, as always, the situation is more complex than this, as explained below…..
Just three of the nine city schools had vacancies in the Reception Year, a pattern similar to that in older age groups, important for the families who will have children of varying ages.
As it happens, two of the three are under a mile from the Barracks, and are the nearest schools, so there is clearly spare capacity in East Canterbury, and there should be no problem finding places. On allocation for Reception in April there were 20 out of 30 places left empty at Parkside, and 23 out of 45 at Pilgrims Way.
The third school is St John’s CofE, just over a mile away, with 31 vacancies out of 60. The school has recently come out of Special Measures, but the other two are performing relatively well. It appears that some of the remaining part of the Barracks site is to be developed with 500 additional houses to be built, which would surely provide a much greater pressure.
The pressure on secondary schooling in Canterbury is tight with the closure of Chaucer Technology School two years ago, but this is planned for replacement in 2018 to meet rising rolls. On allocation in March, all four local non-selective schools were full, although Spires Academy had 21 students allocated to it who had not applied there, in order to give most children a local place, others being placed at The Community College Whitstable. However, with appeals to grammar schools taking place at present, some room will be freed up, but I don’t anticipate the figure for successful appeals will be as high as last year’s 60. Even so, the two schools that started in September with vacancies - Spires Academy, outside the city, and The Archbishop’s School, which has lost in popularity recently, had just 29 vacancies between them as children allocated to the Community College Whitstable because there was no room in the city, moved back to fill any gaps. Looking at the census for higher age groups, there are again few spaces so, as families move in they may be fighting for the few places available. Looking at the census for the three grammar schools, there are still a few places at Barton Court and Simon Langton Girls' Grammar Schools in most years, but none at Simon Langton Boys' .