Although there is a comfortable 9% overall surplus of places in Dover, four town schools are very popular, each turning away more than 15 disappointed first choices: Charlton CofE (having survived a temporary plunge into Special Measures in 2013, but now back to Good); Shatterlocks Infants; River; and St Martin’s, the last two having Outstanding OFSTED’s in this District with the best OFSTED record in the county. Most of the vacancies concentrated in three schools, Aylesham, Green Park, and Whitfield Aspen, although the latter’s spaces were part of a temporary expansion of 20 places.
Every child in Deal and Sandwich’s 19 schools was offered one of their choices, with no significant oversubscription in any school, 13% vacancies overall.
Just 3 places available in the urban area (rounding off to 0.26%) all at Tymberwood Academy, with 78 families getting none of their choices, by some way the highest figure in Kent. I have argued for years this is consistently Kent’s most pressured area (usually along with Maidstone, see below) and this year 90 late (i.e. not planned for) places were created, 30 each at Singlewell, St John’s and Westcourt, just averting a disaster. Last year, Singlewell had the smallest catchment distance in Kent for 2015, at less than 200 yards, so the expansion will have removed this peril. Most oversubscribed school is as usual St Joseph’s Catholic, turning away 37 first choices, with Cecil Road and St John’s Catholic on 31 (would have been far higher but for the expansion), Shears Green Infants on 30, Holy Trinity CofE on 25, Riverview Infants on 18 and St Botolph’s on 16. Four schools account for the large majority of the Local Authority allocations - Westcourt with 25 (because of its expansion to cater for these), Whitehill (still recovering from the scandals) with 21, and Chantry and Tymberwood Academy with 13 – although at 49 out of the 1168 placements, the number of third choices offered in the town is also considerably the highest proportion in Kent. Another problem with Gravesham is that it has the highest proportion of low performing schools in the county, so there is considerable parental pressure to avoid certain schools.
Each year I am contacted by parents offered absurd alternatives as they have no school of their choice, often from Northfleet, given schools the other side of the Borough at Tymberwood or Whitehill, or else over the A2 and into the countryside at Istead Rise. Such a pity that KCC refused to put in a new school in Northfleet when it had the funding opportunity a few years back. Gravesham is an area attracting incomers and they often have a torrid time getting a manageable school, last year including one moving into Higham offered Istead Rise, a journey by road of 8 miles, not possible by public transport, so a taxi was to be provided. There will be further grief ahead for 2016 as more families move into the area.
The Gravesham villages are a little better, with two of the seven schools having vacancies, Istead Rise, which has had a terrible history in recent years, and Vigo in the far south tip of the Borough. Cobham, Outstanding OFSTED, is the only seriously oversubscribed school rejecting 30 first choices.
Just one vacancy in one school in urban Maidstone, at Tree Tops Academy. Most oversubscribed school is the OFSTED Outstanding St Michael’s Infants with 35 first choices losing out, closely followed by Brunswick House (Requires Improvement!) with 32. Other popular schools are: Senacre Wood, 21; Allington and St John’s CofE, 16; and East Borough (the only Maidstone school to have been expanded, by 30 places to 90 admit 90 children) and Thurnham CofE Infants both with 14 oversubscribed. 58 children got no school of their choice, all but four being allocated to Barming, Palace Wood and Tree Tops. Barming is in Special Measures, with a temporary headteacher, and recently and unsurprisingly failed its latest monitoring Inspection, the school now to be taken over by Allington Primary.
Jubilee Primary Free School appears to be struggling, having been allowed to admit 60 pupils in 2015 when Planning permission did not apply, but has been reduced to 30 by the Council this year, although just 7 first choices were turned away. Clearly it is not going to take off until it has good permanent premises which at present do not appear to be on the horizon.
Just outside the town, Loose is one of the two most oversubscribed primary schools in the County, with 53 first choices turned down, many being attracted from South Maidstone. The school has clearly having recovered from a difficult time a few years ago when some parents were removing their children from the school. Boughton Monchelsea turning away 21 first choices and East Farleigh 12 are the other seriously oversubscribed schools, with seven of the 20 schools having vacancies. The new Langley Park Primary currently has 22 offers for its 60 places in its first year of operation, but this state will not last as the building development it is built to serve grows. The pressure on places can be seen from the 13 Local Authority allocations made to the school, with some children who will need to be bussed or taxied from the other side of town.
This is geographically a widespread mainly rural area, apart from Kings Hill, West Maidstone and East and West Malling. Three new primary academies were opened by the Valley Invicta Trust last year, each with an intake of 30 children to meet new housing developments, the two at Holborough Lakes and Kings Hill already being full this year. I assume all three have been designed with room for expansion. Most popular school is Offham oversubscribed by 20 first choices followed by Mereworth with 17, Lunsford 12, and Leybourne St’s Peter and Paul CofE and Ryarsh both with ten. 13 of the 28 schools have vacancies, most at the new Valley Invicta Leybourne Chase with 20 out of 30, and Borough Green 19.