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.....
There is an increase of 472 in the number of places available in Kent Reception Classes from 2015 including, as with last year, a large number of temporary places created to ease pressure points. The overall effect has been to retain the county vacancy rate at 6%, just inside KCC’s target of 5-10%, but with a welcome increased proportion of children gaining their choice of school, as explained here and performance here.
At the other end of the scale to the pressures described above, the new Ramsgate Free School has 75% of its 60 places empty, half of the fourteen schools with 50% or more vacancies being academies or Free Schools, several of these being recently opened in areas where new housing will soon ensure they are filled. KCC carries out a rolling Commissioning Plan that looks at the whole of its school provision and plans for the future which is well worth a read if you have the patience to work through its 152 pages, but shows a far better sense of planning than the ad hoc methods of five or more years ago, with all the crises that accompanied it!
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 2015 entry, of 426 primary appeals registered where Infant Class Legislation applied (the overwhelming majority), just 2 were upheld.
Please note that my division of the county into districts varies from KCC’s. The immense pressure on town school places in a KCC district, often difficult to resolve, is often hidden by vacancies in the more rural hinterland. 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, an ambition that is not fulfilled but is becoming easier with the rise in proportion of Good and Outstanding schools. However, 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 permanently 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 is possible I have left out something of importance, or else made errors in such an extensive survey, in which case please feel free to contact me and if appropriate I will amend the article.
The Districts are: