2017 has been a very good year for Primary school admissions in Kent with 97.4% of families being awarded a school place of their choice, up from 96.6% in 2016. This has been brought about by a combination of 267 extra places created since the 2016 allocations including 30 in one new school, together with a remarkable fall of 679 children or 3.8% in the total applying for places. Overall there are 11.1% vacant places in the Reception classes, rising sharply from 6.5% in 2016. This article follows on from my first look at the general data, here, and explores the pressure areas looking at oversubscription and vacancies across the county.
There are still local pressures focused on several towns including: Tonbridge with just one vacancy in one school; Ashford, two vacancies, apart from 14 in a school on the outskirts; Sevenoaks, full apart from 18 places in one school on the outskirts of town; and Tunbridge Wells just one school with 24 vacancies. However, overall there is a far better picture than last year. Contrast these with: Ashford Rural; Faversham; Maidstone Rural; Shepway Rural & Hythe; and Swanley & District; all with a fifth or more places empty in their schools.
Once again the most popular schools vary considerably from last year, with just Great Chart, Ashford (3rd in 2016) and Fleetdown in Dartford (first last year) occurring in top 10s for both years. Most popular school is Slade Primary in Tonbridge, turning away 43 first choices, followed by Great Chart with 41. You will find the full list of high preferences below.
At the other end of the scale, one unfortunate school with a Good OFSTED, and sound KS2 results had no first choices, and offered just one place (!), whilst another 17 schools have more than half of their places empty, a sharp rise on last year. As financial pressures mount in schools, such low numbers would become critical if repeated.
I look at each district in more detail below, with a brief note on admission to Junior Schools. The outcomes for Medway primary schools will follow shortly…...
Article that appeared in Kent on Sunday, 22 May 2016. Based on fuller article which you will find here.
This year’s increase of 591 in the number of children offered places in Kent primary school Reception Classes has been met with a similar increase in the number of school places available, and the welcome news that the proportion of children gaining a school of their choice has also increased, to a record in recent years of 96.7%. Overall, there are 6% empty places, the same as last year, but these figures hide a growing number of local pressures focused on the towns. The biggest problems this year are in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, no empty spaces at all, Maidstone, one space, Gravesham, three, and Tunbridge Wells seven, each in just one school.
The ten most popular schools this year are: 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, and Claremont in Tunbridge Wells all on 37; St Michael’s CofE Infant in Maidstone, 35, St Crispin’s Infant, Westgate on 34; and Herne Infant on 33.
At the other end of the scale, there are fourteen schools with 50% or more vacancies.
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 which legally restricts class sizes. For 2015 entry, of 426 primary appeals registered where Infant Class Legislation applied, just two were upheld.
Further details of the towns under most pressure follow, a more comprehensive picture being available here.
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.....
Singlewell Primary in Gravesend has 83% of its 30 reception class places awarded to siblings for September, the highest proportion in Kent, with just five ‘non-siblings’ awarded places on distance grounds, all living within 200 yards of the school. Another 25 children who listed the school in first place on their application form, most with a good expectation of a place in normal years, have been turned down. You will find a list of the other ‘sibling hot-spots’ further down this article.
The school with the smallest cut off distance this year, out of the 185 Kent primaries who use and have applied standard KCC oversubscription rules, at just 92 yards, is St Peter’s CofE Primary in Tunbridge Wells (Outstanding OFSTED. Eleven of the school's 20 places have gone to siblings, higher than the average which saw 43% of places awarded to siblings in oversubscribed schools.
However, Tunbridge Wells also exposes a problem that arises from KCC’s use of temporary enlargements. Three TW schools have suffered from temporary enlargements each of 30 places for several years, followed by a subsequent removal of these places, which inevitably increases the proportion of siblings admitted whilst the number of children offered places on distance grounds shrinking. The most extreme example of this was at Bishops Down last year, when all 30 places went to siblings. Claremont and Pembury were also increased by 30 places each some years ago, but have now scaled back again to 60 places each. Bishops Down with 73% of siblings in 2015, has the second smallest catchment distance in the county with the five children who qualified through nearness all living less than 170 yards from the school. Fourth in the county on distance comes Claremont, with 67% siblings, the remainder all living closer than 181 yards from the school. Pembury, 16th tightest in the county on distance also has two thirds of its intake as siblings, those qualifying on distance all living less than 288 yards from the school. KCC was heavily criticised by the Schools Adjudicator in 2012 for using such temporary enlargements without working through the consequences…..
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.
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.....
Good news for most Kent and Medway parents as the proportion of children in both Authorities to be offered places later today in a Reception class at a school of their choice, and also in their first choice school, has risen compared with 2014 figures and the against the national trend.
The headline figures are that:
- All overall statistics for Kent and Medway are an improvement on 2014 figures.
- Kent has 85.81% of children awarded their first choice school, up nearly 1% on 2014, Medway 87.08% over 1% higher than 2014.
- Number of children placed in Kent is 17,415, up by 318 on 2014, in Medway by 200.
- Seven new primary academies are opening in Kent in September, creating 240 additional places.
- Sadly, 724 Kent and 126 Medway children have not been offered any school of their choice.
I was interviewed on ITV Good Morning Britain this morning about the pressures on primary school places. The issue was precipitated by a paper from the Local Government Association attacking government lack of provision and planning for school places, and I contributed to the debate continuing on Radio Kent through the day.
The claim may well be true but, the timing of this paper was extremely insensitive (deliberately so?), just two days before the national closing date for primary school admission and guaranteed to worry many parents whose applications for school places have already been submitted. The government response referred to ‘scaremongering’, and whilst I disagree with much of the rest of their case, sadly I think this word is correct.
Yes there are and will be problems ahead for many local families, and the main problem areas for 2014 entry in Kent and Medway were described previously in these pages. However, the fact remains that in Kent in 2014, a high 85% of children were allocated their first choice school and just 5% were offered none of their choices. Medway’s figures were very similar at 86% and 5%. However, Kent anticipates an additional 15,000 school places will be needed over the next five years, and it is not yet clear where all these will come from.
The politics of education are getting more unpleasant as we head towards the General Election,....
This newspaper article is an expanded version of a news item elsewhere on this website, looking at the pressure on primary school places in Kent.
There has been much comment in the national media on the growing shortage of primary school places and Kent is no exception. I am now receiving concerned enquiries almost daily from families who have moved into or are planning to move into the area and are finding no suitable school, or in some cases no school at all being offered. Others have been allocated schools they didn’t apply to and are now finding out the reasons for the lack of popularity of some of these. Key pressure areas include: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent; and much of Medway, especially Chatham, Rainham and Rochester.
The problems of what are called In Year transfers are exemplified by an email circulated to primary school headteachers in Gravesham at the beginning of September by the Local Authority desperately seeking places for 23 children in the Borough (9 in Dartford) in Years 1,2 and 3 without a place........
You will find an expanded version of this item in an article I wrote for Kent on Sunday published 21st September 2014
There has been much comment in the national media on the growing shortage of primary school places and Kent is no exception. In May I wrote articles on primary allocations in Kent and Medway, identifying some of the pressure areas as: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent; and much of Medway, especially Chatham, Rainham and Rochester.
I am now receiving concerned enquiries almost daily from families who have moved into or are planning to move into the area and are finding no suitable school, or in some cases no school at all being offered. Others have been allocated schools they didn’t apply to and are now finding out the problems. These are exemplified by an email circulated to primary school headteachers in Gravesham at the beginning of September by the Local Authority desperately seeking places for 23 children in the Borough (9 in Dartford) in Years 1,2 and 3 without a place.
In 2012 KCC drew up a Commissioning Plan which developed a strategy for creating the 10000 new places needed by 2016. This is already creaking at the seams and the overarching principles set down to guide it appear a distant memory.
I am not sure what, if any, strategy is being followed by Medway Council.....
On primary school allocation day in April, 796 Kent children were allocated to schools they had not applied to, a great shock for many parents as the number is well up on last year’s 661.
This article looks at the popularity of individual schools and problems of capacity around the county this year.
Most popular school in Kent is once again Riverhead Infants in Sevenoaks, turning away 69 first choices, followed by St John’s Catholic Primary in Gravesham (50). Next come: Slade Primary, Tonbridge (47); with West Hill Primary, Dartford, Madginford Park Infants, Maidstone and Priory Infants, Ramsgate all turning away 42 disappointed first choices. Minster in Sheppey (41), St John’s CofE, Tunbridge Wells (38) and St Joseph’s Catholic, Northfleet (36) bring the total up to 9, tenth place being shared by: Brent, Dartford; Palm Bay, Margate; St Crispins’ Community Infant, Westgate on Sea and St James CofE Infants, Tunbridge Wells, all with 35 disappointed first choices.
Biggest problem area is probably Gravesham ....