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Sunday, 03 May 2015 20:07

Oversubscription and Vacancies for Reception Year Places in Kent Primary Schools for September 2015.

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.....

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 2014 entry, of 537 primary appeals registered where Infant Class Legislation applied (the overwhelming majority), just 5 were upheld.

Please note that my division of the county into districts varies slightly from KCC’s. The immense pressure on town school places in a KCC district is often hidden by vacancies in the more rural hinterland. However, whilst six of the seven new primary academies in Kent opening in September are being built to meet real needs from new  housing developments outside these towns, they do not really address the current pressures which are difficult to resolve.

KCC retains its policy that the optimum size of an all through  primary school is two forms of admission, and to only expand OFSTED Good or Outstanding schools, but most schools of all categories in areas under pressure have now been expanded where possible and it is often difficult to see where further increase can be made, except by Free Schools opening in unsuitable premises for a school.  To expand a school by one whole class of 30 requires there to be space for seven classrooms, as the increase works through the school, together with recreation land, a massive demand on an individual school in a limited boundary.

I have tried to include as much detail as possible, but it possible I have left out something of importance, or else made errors, in which case please feel free to contact me and if appropriate I will amend the article.

The Districts are:

Page 1 - Ashford town and country: Canterbury city, coastal and country; Cranbrook; Dartford town and country; Dover, Deal & Sandwich

Page 2 - Gravesham; Maidstone town and country; Malling

Page 3 - Sevenoaks town and country; Shepway, Folkestone and Hythe and country; Swale town and country; Swanley

Page 4 - Thanet north and south; Tonbridge; Tunbridge Wells

 

Ashford
One primary school has one vacancy. Other than that, the only school with vacancies is Furley Park, with 20 of its 90 places empty. It is newly converted to an Academy, a good OFSTED, and excellent Key Stage 2 results, but unfortunately, is at the far south tip of the town, inaccessible to many families. The new Finberry Primary Academy sponsored by the Stour Valley Academy Trust is opening in September, to serve a new development on the outskirts of the town at Cheeseman’s Green, but initially operating in the town. Few details are available yet, but applications will be directly to the new school, reducing a little of the pressure elsewhere. When the new buildings are complete, the school will admit 60 children. It appears that parents are generally happy with the quality of schools in the town as just 34 of over 1000 children have been allocated to schools they don’t want. With most of these going to John Wallis Academy, not far from Furley Park, some may be tempted to look there. Most popular school is John Wesley, with 17 first choices turned away.
 
Great Chart Primary has 45 first choices turned away, reflecting the major building developments nearby in Ashford, but otherwise no problems in the rural areas or in Tenterden, with 17% vacancies.
 
 
 Canterbury
The City’s eight schools are heavily polarised, with half well oversubscribed, St Peter’s Methodist being well ahead with 23 disappointed first choices.
St Peters Methodist
 
 
The other four each have a share of the city’s 60 vacancies, and each absorbing some of 19 Local Authority allocations, Parkside having half its 30 places empty.
 
Although Herne CofE Infants is the school of choice in the Herne Bay area, there are just 4% vacancies along the rapidly developing Thames coastal part of the district, most at Reculver with 13, until last year in Special Measures, Most parents seem happy with provision, with very few not getting any school of their choice. Elsewhere there are few problems with just 27 out of 950 children outside the city LA allocated, across seven schools.
 
Cranbrook
Just three of the 11 schools with vacancies with two, Paddock Wood and Sandhurst with Good OFSTEDs, Cranbrook CofE still in Special Measures. However, only one school, Goudhurst and Kilndown CofE is significantly oversubscribed with 14 first choices turned away.
 
Dartford
There are no vacancies in any school in the town, but again, most parents have been offered one school of their choice, with 34 being allocated places by KCC, nearly all at Temple Hill or Holy Trinity CofE. Most popular school is Fleetdown with 38 disappointed first choices, followed by Brent with 33, then West Hill at 22 and Wentworth 20.

Outside the town, most popular school is Craylands with 23 unlucky first choices. Four of the eleven schools have vacancies.

 
Dover, Deal and Sandwich
Most popular school is Hornbeam in Deal with just 16 first choices rejected, followed by St Martin’s Dover with 15. Very few problems with overall 13% vacancies.
 
 
Gravesham
Gravesend and Northfleet families have most difficulties across Kent in finding good schools for their children. Gravesham has: the highest proportion of OFSTED failures; excessive pressure in Northfleet (see below); two heads of reasonably performing schools recently removed for different reasons; the notorious Whitehill Primary; and the recently converted sponsored Tymberwood Academy whose lack of popularity is clear as it has 19 of the 21 vacancies in the town. An Evangelical Free School is proposed for Northfleet to open in 2017, in an area where KCC failed to take advantage of the opportunity to open its own school a few years ago, on the grounds there was too much capacity (!).
 
Not surprisingly, Gravesham has three of the ten most oversubscribed schools in Kent: two in the top ten for the third consecutive year – St Joseph’s Catholic, Northfleet, 48 first choices turned away ( top in 2013) and St John’s Catholic, Gravesend (second in 2014), 43 ;
 
st josephs northfleet           St Johns 3
 
together with Cobham, 44.
 
An astonishing 108 children, 10% of those applying for Reception places in the town, have been allocated to schools they did not apply for as they tried to avoid the problem schools , a larger number than in any other district in Kent, the average across the county being 4%. The allocations are focused on: Whitehill, 33 children; Chantry and Kings Farm, both in Special Measures; Istead Rise Primary, a village school outside the town, placed in Special Measures, failed again by Meopham Primary who managed them for a while, now passed on to Swale Academies Trust; and Tymberwood, previously Special Measures. There are no spaces anywhere else. At least one family on the western border of Northfleet, has been offered a place at Tymberwood on the far east of Gravesend as they had the misfortune not to live near enough to any local school.
 
In the surrounding villages, there are only vacancies at Istead Rise with 60% of places empty before allocations improved numbers, and 7 spaces in the two primaries at the far south of the district.
 
Maidstone
Most popular school is St Michael’s CofE Infants with two consecutive Outstanding OFSTEDs, 60 first choices turned away,
 
St Michaels Infants 
 
followed by Brunswick House Primary with 45, St John’s CofE on 31 and East Borough on 30. Apart from St John’s, the enormous pressures of a few years ago in the Bearsted area appear to have diminished.
The town has just 25 vacancies, 2% of the total number of places available, in six schools including the new Jubilee Free School, Evangelical Christian, which has received 31 of the 89 Local Authority Allocations after expanding from 30 to 60 places. This raises important questions for families who may not wish this particular ethos but have been allocated places there. Palace Wood, still picking up after a terrible year under an acting head who has now gone on to run a failing school elsewhere, has 22. The 16 children allocated to Tree Tops Academy, previously in Special Measures under Associated Academy Trust, appear to have done well as the school was taken over by Leigh Academy Trust since applications were submitted and has just received a Good OFSTED assessment. Barming Primary, recently placed in Special Measures after a difficult year, still only has 4 vacancies. It now has an Acting Head appointed who has a very mixed record in his four acting roles in previous schools, whilst remaining substantive deputy head of Whitehill Primary in Gravesham.
 
In the villages, eight of the 19 schools have vacancies, although several of these have had a chequered OFSTED history. Loose Primary, traditionally amongst the most popular schools in the District when it was separate Infant and Junior, has recovered under new leadership from a few difficult years and is now the most oversubscribed rural school with 26 first choices turned away.
 
 
Malling
There appear to be few difficulties in this elongated rural part of Tonbridge district, stretching north to the Medway border, but three new academies are opening in September to serve major building projects at Holborough Lakes, Kings Hill and Leybourne Chase. Some applications for the new schools have been made via the KCC admission process, others can be made directly via the late admission process, allowing duplicate offers to be made. Most oversubscribed school is Lunsford Primary with 27 first choices rejected, but this will be eased by the opening of Leybourne Chase. There is some oversubscription at the two Kings Hill primaries, less than in previous years, but again this will be eased by the new primary academy.
 
 
Sevenoaks
As in previous years, there are no vacancies at all in the seven town schools, four being heavily oversubscribed each with between 26 and 30 first choices turned away: Riverhead Infant; Sevenoaks; Lady Boswell’s CofE and St John’s CofE. With 360 offers, a third of these did not get their first choice. 38 of 50 who were offered none of their choices have been allocated to Seal CofE Primary, which regularly expands to take up the overspill. Families have spread their first choices more equally than last year when Riverhead was the most oversubscribed school in Kent, with 69 first choices rejected. In Sevenoaks, as in Tunbridge Wells, a significant proportion of families who do not get their first choice of state school (and some who do) subsequently go private, so there is considerable movement between now and September.
 
There are just two schools with vacancies in the more rural parts of the district, both in the surrounding villages and both with 7 empty spaces on allocation. Churchill School in Westerham, is a Good school; Halstead has been in difficulties for many years. Edenbridge Primary has been expanded by a class to absorb some of the pressure.
 
Shepway
Just one of the 17 schools in Folkestone, Cheriton Primary, has vacancies, with a total of 3 spaces out of the 748 available. It is an OFSTED Good school, and has above average Key Stage 2 results, having expanded by 30 places to 90 two years ago, with 22 children having been allocated to the school by KCC who had not applied it, out of a total of 38 in the town. Sandgate Primary is the most popular primary school in Kent, turning away 67 first choices. Second in Shepway is the Junior Section of Folkestone Academy, both schools run by the same Executive Headteacher. An additional reason for the popularity is that it gives priority to the secondary section, which is highly sought after when compared with the alternative.
 
The pressures will be eased by the new Martello Grove Academy, opening in East Folkestone in September, although this will presumably mainly take children from St Mary’s CofE Primary less than 400 yards away, which has just filled with only 1 first choice turned away.
 
Rural Shepway and Hythe have very few issues, with Seabrook the only significantly oversubscribed school with 12 first choices turned away, and just 6 of the 421 children not getting any of their offers.
 
Swale: Faversham, Sheppey and Sittingbourne
The most oversubscribed school in the Swale towns is: Ethelbert Road Primary, in Faversham, 29 first choices not offered places.
Ethelbert Road
This is followed by  Canterbury Road Primary, 18, also in Faversham; Minster in Sheppey, 26: and Oaks Community Infants, 16 and Kemsley Primary Academy, having recovered strongly after being placed in Special Measures before it became a sponsored academy, 15. Pressure on the Isle of Sheppey will be eased with a new 60 place Academy being opened at Thistle Hill, near Minster. Otherwise, not too many problems, the 34 children allocated places by KCC being scattered across 10 of the 28 schools.
 
The school with most vacancies in Kent is Westlands Primary in Sittingbourne, an Academy sponsored by Swale Academies Trust, with 48 of its 90 places empty.
 
Just two significantly oversubscribed schools in the villages: Bobbing, 16 oversubscribed; and Sheldwich 11. Eight of the 19 schools have vacancies, with a total of 20% empty spaces across the district, including Lower Halstow, which has just seven pupils for its 30 places.
 
Swanley has six of its ten schools with vacancies, Crockenhill having 13 of the 17 oversubscribed first choices.
 
Thanet
Just three schools at the north or Margate end of Thanet have vacancies, Garlinge, which appears to have few problems, with 34, and two schools disastrously run by Kemnal Academies Trust (TKAT), Drapers Mills with 43 and Salmestone with four. All the other eight schools are turning away first choices, led by Holy Trinity and St John’s Cof E with 58, the third most popular school in Kent.
Holy Trinity St Johns
 
Next is Palm Bay with 20. This is another example of polarisation where families try and avoid unpopular schools, putting pressure on the others.
 
At the Ramsgate end, there is even more pressure, with again just three schools with vacancies out of 14, only 3% of the total capacity in the district being empty. 8% of all children are allocated to three schools they haven’t applied to, 66 of the total of 72 to Dame Janet Primary Academy and Newlands Primary, both run by TKAT. Newlands has been expanded by a class to cater for this additional intake, and with Bromstone the third of these schools also being enlarged by 30 places last year to 90, another school with a mixed past, KCC’s policy of only expanding Good or Outstanding schools is certainly under pressure here.
 
Priory Infants, turning away 47 first choices, is the fifth most oversubscribed school in Kent.
 
Priory Infants,
 
Chilton Primary at 34 is the 10th most oversubscribed. The Ramsgate Free School is due to open in September, sponsored by Chilton Primary, and so free from many of the concerns about Free Schools, will certainly ease the pressure with applications direct to the school and so independent of the KCC process.
 
Tonbridge
In 2014 there were no vacancies in the town, but this year there are 23 at Long Mead and St Stephen’s, reflecting the 20 fewer children in the district and the extra class put in at Sussex Road.  Pressure on Slade Primary, the third most oversubscribed school in Kent in 2014, has also slipped, but still 26 first choices were turned away. Only four town children were allocated to schools they had not applied for. For 2016 admission, the new Free School sponsored by Bennett Memorial will ease the pressure in South Tonbridge.
 
No problems in the out of town schools.
 
Tunbridge Wells
Just 29 places free at two schools, 3% of the total, 23 being at Rusthall St Paul’s CofE. The other 6 are at the new Skinners Kent Primary Academy, which has also had nine children allocated. The school is unusual in that it is the only Kent state school I know which is offering the International Baccalaureate Primary years Programme, enjoying the freedom of academies to depart from aspects of the National Curriculum. Parents will also be able to make direct late applications to the academy.

Because of the pressure on places, a total of 73 children, or 8% of all applicants,, have been allocated to schools they did not apply to . As usual, the largest number of these, 36 children out of a total intake have been allocated to Temple grove Academy, with another 27 to St Mark’s CofE.

As usual, Claremont is the most popular school in TW, turning away 32 first choices, but still not in the top ten in Kent, although it is the only one to attract recent media attention about the pressure on places. St John’s CofE has 22, with St James’ CofE Infant and Pembury on 21. Pembury is still managing the fall-out from increasing its numbers by 30 for three years in 2012 to 90, which has brought in a higher proportion of siblings in subsequent years. There are 40 siblings out of the 60 places offered for 2015, a reported 15 of these living outside the village, whilst 18 village children are denied places. Both Claremont and Bishops Down have seen similar unintended consequences. Wells Free School in its second year of operation is also proving popular with 19 first choices oversubscribed.

Last modified on Wednesday, 20 April 2016 18:37

4 comments

  • Comment Link Thursday, 08 October 2015 08:15 posted by Hayley

    This makes for extremely interesting and encouraging reading. I am based in Warwickshire in the Midlands. Warwickshire uses (fairly arbitrary, and historically ill-updated) catchment areas for admission, with sibling priority applying only within catchment area. This method causes its own raft of issues. We have campaigned locally, and nationally, for 4 years now, that siblings should attend the same school where they are still local to it ('local' being defined by govt as 2 miles) Tightening up policing and verifying of application addresses must form a vital part of a robust admission process. Unsurprisingly Warks is as lax as any admission authority in this aspect, and I am heartened also to see you address this importance. Warwickshire routinely publishes and distributes historic admissions data for parents to guide their choices, but not information on live births within each priority area; this piece of information being almost of greater potential value for parents trying to reason their chances of a place at a school and their consequent selections. We have started to request this information via FOI and to distribute it with guidance to parents, in effort to encourage more fully informed school applications. I am delighted to find your considered, rational and well researched blog and webpage because there seems so little thoughtful analysis of this growing issue (we are also approached every year by parents from across the UK, and beyond) The focus of our efforts - which are threefold - is via the Siblings at the Same School Facebook page. A page for layman advice and peer support for parents with separated siblings, to campaign for local change to oversubscription criteria to protect siblings, and for National change at admission code level to recognise the importance of sibling unity (and therefore sibling priority) in schooling at KS1 and 2. I'll continue to read your own page with interest. Thank you!

  • Comment Link Thursday, 21 May 2015 18:18 posted by Anon

    I am now happy with a great sense of release, having left the staff of Whitehill Primary in the past year. A school with no internal integrity, staff promotions and appointments not on merit causing discontent, parents unhappy, sinking fast. What a tragedy! But the big question is why is nothing happening, and whose responsibility is it to do something for the sake of the children. PETER: What else can one say. Surely, everyone in authority is aware of just some of the problems being exposed at this school.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 16 May 2015 20:17 posted by Susanna

    You simply describe Whitehill Primary in Gravesend as 'notorious'. I think you are being polite. My son went to secondary school, along with all other Whitehill Year 6s last summer with no KS2 results, as they were annulled following cheating by school staff. Surely this is a sackable, if not criminal offence. Where are the governors of Whitehill or of the Gravesend Grammar School Trust which has overall responsibility for the school? Why has no one been sacked. I understand there were no KS1 results either. Before school allocation, this year as in previous years, too many parents fear their children will be offered places at Whitehill and they apply to almost anywhere else to avoid it because of the appalling reputation of the leadership. 33 unfortunate children were offered places who did not even apply to the school. My neighbour's child is being kept at home rather than go to the school. I understand that one reception class is taught by an unqualified person not on a training course (mother is in the leadership team), one Year 2 teacher taught by student (son of member of Gravesend Grammar leadership), other Infant classes taught by Assistant Head, no previous foundation experience, one taught by secondary teacher, no previous foundation experience, 1 teacher in first year of infants, 2 by NQTs +1, one without Foundation experience. 4 of the 7 Year 3 and 4 classes taught by NQTs. Years 5 &6 where SATs matter taught by experienced staff. I could go on all night about the problems in this school, but your articles show the damage wreaked on Kings Farm Primary by it, resulting in the school being placed in Special measures and the Executive Headteacher from Whitehill being removed by KCC. Again, after KS2 results were annulled for cheating and documentation for KS1 results destroyed. PETER: Sadly, some of these allegations are in the public domain, I have had others confirmed by current and ex-staff at Whitehill. I am unable to substantiate all allegations independently, but remain happy to receive such. I understand the school received a visit from the Department for education during this year's SATS checking on their proper conduct.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 07 May 2015 13:41 posted by Alan

    Dear Peter,

    Thank you for sharing such a thorough and insightful analysis.

    I would also suggest that oversubscription numbers can be a misleading indicator of demand. Demand is self-regulating thanks in part to the publication of historic admissions data which helps parents make informed decisions about where and where not to apply. Your own analysis and sharing of information probably has some impact too!

    This might explain the continuing focus on Claremont Primary School in Tunbridge Wells. If you live more than 0.2 miles from the school, and don’t have a sibling connection, why bother applying and using up one of your three available choices?

    Such demand is hidden by the raw data.

    It might also explain why there is such a degree of movement in the ‘in demand’ schools between 2014 and 2015. PETER: Thank you Alan. I don't think I disagree with much here, and hope you are not suggesting it is not good for parents to be well-informed. Of course the historical admissions data now published,in the Kent prospectus may influence choice, and I can only say a good thing too as there are fewer parents set adrift. Too often I have advised parents at this time at this time of year and found them with three totally unrealistic choices, unaware they didn't stand a chance at any. It still happens, but hopefully to a lesser extent! Parents who contacted me for admission advice back in January give me a considerable insight into the thinking of aspiring families. Personally I am delighted to see demand for Claremont levelling off. For reference I have lobbied KCC hard for many years over what I regard as sloppy residential qualification which I know is at the root of the controversy. It is interesting that for 2015 entry, KCc has quietly increased the minimum length of a tenancy from six months to a year. However, whilst there is such a low level of policing of this, no doubt partly due to financial factors, this has gone on for too many years.

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