I now have detailed figures for Medway’s Primary Reception and Junior School allocations for September 2016, and they confirm the data quoted in my initial article on primary school allocations, published in April.
The overall outcome in terms of preferences and vacancies is similar to 2015, although another 60 late places were put into two Gillingham schools, St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic and Woodlands Academy to head off problems. 40 extra unplanned places were put into Elaine Primary Academy, but in the end, these were not used.
Rainham is the most pressured area again, with not a single Reception place left unfilled. Most popular school is St Margaret’s Infants’ also in Rainham, turning away 39 first choices, soaring from nine last year. This is followed by: Brompton-Westbrook (Academy), (31), third most popular in 2015; Swingate 27, another school that has increased sharply in popularity; Pilgrim and Bligh Infants (Academy applications in progress), (25); and All Faiths Children’s Academy and Cliffe Woods Primary Academy (23).
Five primary schools have over a third of their places empty, headed by All Hallows Primary Academy on the Hoo Peninsula with a 60% vacancy rate for its 30 places, although Twydall has the largest number, with 34 of its 75 places going empty.
I look more closely at each Medway area below, together with the situation for Junior Schools…….
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 63 registered Primary appeals organised by Medway Council where Infant Class Legislation applied (the overwhelming majority), just 3 were upheld.
Most popular school is Swingate, turning away 27 first choices, followed by Walderslade 22 (sharp increase from 4 last year), and All Saints CofE with 19.
There are just four schools out of the 18 in total with vacancies, sharing 71 between them, most at Lordswood with 26 of its 60 places unfilled (one of the three primary schools in the Lordswood District along with Swingate), a sharp decline since its takeover by Griffin Academy Trust, from two years ago when it was full. This is a percentage of 43%, third highest in Medway. It is followed by Oaklands with 21 vacancies. There are 40 Local Authority allocations of children to schools for families who have not been offered any of their choices, biggest numbers going to Luton Infants and St John’s CofE Infants, the latter only having nine first choices, the lowest number in urban Medway.
Brompton-Westbrook Academy is the most popular school, turning away 31 first choices, followed by Burnt Oak, Byron and St Mary’s Catholic all disappointing 10 first choices. The area was heading for serious accommodation difficulties, until Medway Council made a decision to put in 30 late places (described as ‘Bulge’ places) into each of St Thomas of Canterbury Catholic and Woodlands Academy, creating a surplus of 76 places. Barnsole, Medway’s latest OFSTED Outstanding school, and the only one south of the M2 making access difficult for many parents, is just 5 applications oversubscribed.
As a result there are now seven primary schools with vacancies, headed up by Twydall with 34, which has not yet recovered its popularity since being placed in Special Measures, followed by a controversial takeover attempt. After the closing date for primary applications it was taken over as an Academy by Rainham Mark Grammar and one can expect to see improvement next year. Next is Napier Community with 14 spaces, run by the controversial Kemnal Manor Academy Trust, these schools being two of just three with vacancies in 2015. Oasis Academy Skinner Street, hopefully recovering from its own Special Measures assessment, still has 9 vacant spaces after 20 children are allocated to the school by Medway Council.
Every Hoo Peninsula school is now either an academy, or in process of converting.
As usual, fewer than half the nine schools are oversubscribed, also headed as usual by Cliffe Woods with its Outstanding OFSTED, the tribulations of the now departed headteacher not having dented its popularity, the school turning away 36 first choices. It is one of just six Medway Primaries along with High Halstow that only offered places to first choices reflecting its strong popularity with local families, or else geographical difficulties to choosing elsewhere. It is followed by Chattenden with nine rejections, and High Halstow with six.
However, just two schools with vacancies this year, All Hallows with 18, the Medway school with the highest percentage of empty places at 60%, and St James’ CofE Academy 14, fourth highest vacancy rate at 40%, and with both schools having an intake of just 30 they must be under considerable financial pressure.
Every Rainham Primary School is oversubscribed in the Reception Year on allocation for September. Most popular school by far in Rainham and in Medway is St Margaret’s CofE Infants, with 39 disappointed first choices, followed by Riverside and Thames View, both with 10. However, with all but two families being allocated to a school of their choice (unless they have been sent out of Rainham) by some way the lowest proportion in Medway, there appears to be broad satisfaction with provision in the area, with nearly all disappointed at St Margaret’s having a school of their choice.
With every school but one in Rochester being oversubscribed, there is a different picture to Rainham. Each year recently, 2016 being no exception, three primary schools are heavily oversubscribed, although changing order from time to time. Pilgrim School tops the popularity list with 25 rejections from first choice applicants for its 30 places, for the second year running. Next come St Margaret’s at Troy Town CofE, at 20 first choices turned down for 30 places, and Balfour Infants, 18 for its 90 places. Pilgrim and Bligh are two more of Medway’s Outstanding OFSTED schools.
Warren Wood Primary Academy has had a torrid time until recently taken over by Greenacre Academy, and it will take time for changes to work through. In the meantime, parents are waiting to be convinced and the school had eleven of its 60 places left vacant even after 25 children were allocated there by the Council, giving Rochester the highest proportion of Allocations in Medway at 7%.
Just three schools with vacancies out of the twelve schools, with Bligh Infants the most popular with 25 disappointed first choices. This is followed by All Faiths Childrens’ Community turning away 23 first choices and St Nicholas CofE VC 11 (Outstanding OFSTED).
The schools with vacancies are headed by Elaine Primary Academy, which bizarrely had its capacity increased by 40, but as a result now has 59 of its 90 places vacant with none of the extras taken up. An interesting way of creating extra capacity for remove these and the total number of vacancies across Medway falls from seven to six per cent. The other two schools with a small number of vacancies are Cedar, still losing its reputation as the troubled and previously named Sherwin Knight, and Cuxton Academy, now linked up with the failed Junior School as part of the Primary First Trust.
The previously failed Temple Mill is now full, having become an Academy sponsored by The Howard School, suggesting that parents are comfortable with the new arrangement.
These each come with a linked Infant School with most children transferring without trouble as they are given highest priority for admission. The main issue is at Phoenix Junior Academy run by the Fort Pitt Thomas Aveling Trust, which has recently received a Good OFSTED, after its pre-academy poor performance. It is linked with Greenvale Infants which, three years ago, was expanded by 60 places as an emergency response to pressure on places. Unfortunately, such decisions have consequences and so for September, 29 children who put the school in first place, almost certainly following through from Greenvale, have been turned away. Horsted Junior School is 11 first choices oversubscribed, but these will be children trying to transfer in from schools other than Horsted Infants.
17 of the 26 Medway Council allocations are to New Horizons Children’s Academy, which has opened up another class to accommodate the Phoenix children.