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Saturday, 07 July 2018 19:13

Oversubscription & Vacancies Medway Primary Schools 2018

 The proportion of Medway children offered one of their choices in a Medway primary school has risen to 97.6%, the highest proportion for at least six years. This is a result of a reduction of 27 in the number of Medway school places taken up by children from the Authority and outside, together with an increase of 80 places in local schools. As a result, there are 524 vacancies across the 67 schools, which is 14% of the total available, up from 12% in 2017.

Most vacancies are in Rainham (last year just 3% places empty) and the Hoo Peninsula, with 11% of places empty. At the other end is Rochester with 21% of all places left empty in five of its eight schools. Most popular school is once again Barnsole Primary which turned away an astonishing 72 first choices turned away, followed by All Saints CofE and Walderslade primaries with 23 disappointed first choices. There are eight schools with 15 or more first choices turned down, spread across the Authority, and listed in the table below. 

Barnsole     All saints chatham   Walderslade Primary 2

Twelve schools have over a third of their places empty, up from eight in 2017, but headed for the third year running by All Hallows Primary Academy, with 73% of its Reception places empty (up from 70% in 2017), and looking increasingly non-viable as a stand-alone school. Altogether 36 schools, over half of the total of 67 primary schools have vacancies in their Reception classes. 79 Medway children  were offered none of their choices and have been allocated to other schools with vacancies by Medway Council, 48 in Chatham schools.  

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

If there are sections that need amplification, please let me know…….

 You will find the equivalent article and data for 2017 here; a preliminary article here; and the parallel Kent article here - which also records a second fall in pupil numbers.

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. For 2017 entry, of 66 registered Primary appeals organised by Medway Council where Infant Class Legislation applied (the overwhelming majority), just one was upheld. 

 School
Places
First Choices
Not Offered
% First
Disappointed
Barnsole (G) 90 72  44%
All Saints CofE (C) 45  23 34%
Walderslade (C) 30 23  43%
Brompton-Westbrook (G) 60 20 25%
Hilltop (S) 60 18  23%
Swingate (C) 90 17 

16% 

St William of Perth
Catholic (R)
30 16  35%
All Faiths Children's
Academy (S)
30 15  33%

Note: the abbreviation LAAC refers to a child placed by Medway Council at a school they have not applied to, as all their own choices are full. PAN refers to the Planned Admission Number of the school.

You will find the equivalent article and data for 2017 here; a preliminary article here; and the parallel Kent article here - which also records a second fall in pupil numbers.

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. For 2017 entry, of 66 registered Primary appeals organised by Medway Council where Infant Class Legislation applied (the overwhelming majority), just one was upheld.

Chatham
Six schools were considerably oversubscribed with first choices: All Saints CofE & Walderslade (23); Swingate (17); Horsted Infants & New Horizon (14); and New Road Primary (10). Walderslade with just 30 places on offer, had the second highest proportion of disappointed families in Medway, with 43%. This may be partially because of problems at nearby Tunbury, officially in Kent. 

Nine of the 19 schools had vacancies. Highest figure at 42% empty spaces is Oaklands Primary, possibly still shrugging off a difficult history. This is more than double the percentage empty in 2017. However, the school’s recent Good Ofsted Report, too late in February to affect admissions is highly complimentary, including: ‘In 2017, the percentages of pupils attaining both expected and higher levels at the end of key stage 2 national assessments in reading, writing and mathematics were above those seen nationally. This represented strong progress from their starting points’ (as in 2016). Some of the 95 Chatham families who did not get their first choices elsewhere could do worse than look at this school. Altogether 33 children were awarded none of their choices and became LAACs.

Next comes Lordswood with 38% of its places empty, not having fared well under the Griffin Academy Trust since conversion (see also subsequent articles on this site). Then two schools on 37%. First is Luton Infants, Ofsted Requires Improvement, with 13 LAACs, but opens up to the Ofsted Outstanding Luton Juniors. Second, surprisingly is St Mary’s Island, CofE Aided that decided to increase its PAN to 90, above the published figure of 60, although it had only just filled in 2017, then only attracted 57 pupils. No other school had more than nine empty spaces.

Gillingham
Barnsole Primary, with its Outstanding Ofsted, turned away 72 first choices for its 90 places, by far the highest number in Medway, and just pipped as highest in Kent. It will have been helped by three other schools with difficult histories nearby. Just three other oversubscribed schools, most at Brompton-Westbrook (20).

Seven of the 12 schools have vacancies, most at Twydall with 40% of places empty, still scarred by its failed Ofsted four years ago, and a subsequent controversial headship (now departed)- one of the few from the Medway Council initiative to bring successful London teachers into the Authority as heads. Three of the other four schools with over 20% empty spaces suffer from a difficult Ofsted history, Napier with repeated ‘Requires Improvement’, and Oasis Skinner Street and Saxon Way, both Special Measures under Medway Council control but now ‘Good’ as academies. The fourth, Featherby Infant probably suffers from having its partner Junior School in Special Measures.

Hoo Peninsula
This is the one area of Medway with rising rolls at Reception age with the four coastal schools having the vacancies between them, primarily a reflection of the population spread. The two largest, Allhallows Primary Academy (73% vacancies) and Stoke Community School (35%) both part of the failing Williamson Trust, to be taken over by the Leigh Academy Trust. I understand that consideration is under way to combine the two schools in some way.

The most oversubscribed school is the Ofsted Outstanding Cliffe Woods Primary with 12 first choices turned away for its 60 places.

Rainham
Just three schools oversubscribed, most at the controversial Fairview Community School with 13 disappointed first choices. See below, however the problem only became apparent after applications for places closed in January this year, and now appears to have been resolved!

Six of the nine schools have vacancies, most at Deanwood and Meirs Court, both with a third of their places empty, both with Good Ofsteds.

Riverside Primary was expanded by 30 places to 60 in total, all but six having been taken up.

Rochester
Rochester primary schools have by some way most vacancies in Medway, a total of 21% of those available.

One oddity is the situation at the former Delce Infant and Junior schools. Delce Juniors was an Ofsted Good School, until it became an academy but was found to Require Improvement last year, with particular criticism being made of the Trust governance. For some reason the school chose to admit children at Reception age in 2017, putting an extra 30 places into the system, in competition with the Infant School and presumably to undermine it. Currently, this strategy is proving a failure with just 9 children choosing the school; another 3 being made up by LAACs (out of a total of 5 LAACs) resulting in 60% vacancies. Meanwhile the Crest Infant School (presumably it had to change its name to avoid confusion) admitted 54 children, there not being enough across the two schools to fill the original PAN of 90 in Delce Infants.

The only significantly oversubscribed school is St William of Perth Catholic, turning away 16 first choices. Last years second most popular school in Medway has seen its oversubscription level fall from 29 to 8 disappointed first choices.

Strood
There are just two of the twelve schools significantly oversubscribed: Hilltop Primary (18) and All Faiths Children’s Academy (15), both well up on 2017. All Faiths has seen a sharp drop in KS2 performance and a drop in Ofsted rating to ‘Requires Improvement’ in 2017, but does not appear to have suffered as a consequence.

Not surprisingly, Elaine Primary School, taken away from the Williamson Trust after poor performance, has the highest proportion of vacancies, with 42% of its 50 places unfilled. Next, with 27% empty spaces come Cedar Children’s Academy, with a difficult history, and Halling Primary, the vacancies in this popular school created after it raised its PAN from 40 to 60, attracting 44 pupils.

Junior Schools
As these are mainly admitting pupils from linked Infant schools, there is little of note to record.
 
++++++++++++++++++++++
Fairview Community School
Under its 2015 Policy Document ‘Get Medway Learning’, all traces of which appear to have vanished from the Council website and the internet, apart from an article I wrote at the time, the Council proposed to ‘Encourage deputy head teachers from already high achieving schools in London to step up into head teacher roles in Medway, to drive improvement and raise standards’. I am not sure how many were lured to Medway, but the one I quoted left under a cloud last year. The other I know of was appointed at Christmas to the reasonably performing and happy Fairview Primary School. Mrs Faye Rider arrived in January from her post as Head of School at an Ofsted Outstanding school in Walthamstow, determined to make a difference, but sadly soon there were large and important staff resignations, and a change in culture including tough discipline and setting by ability that went down badly. It is reported that the headteacher had little understanding of how an LA school worked. Concerns were raised with me in April and, by the second week of the new term, letters home to parents were being signed by the Deputy Head. She became Acting Head at the start of Term 6, although no explanation appears to have been forthcoming and I am informed that Mrs Rider has left/is leaving the school.

  

Last modified on Thursday, 12 July 2018 14:30

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