I now have details of the popularity of individual primary schools in Kent & Medway for entry in September, headlines described below. This article is about Kent placements; a Medway one will follow as time permits.
Most oversubscribed primary school (above) is an OFSTED Outstanding Catholic school in North Kent
Kent County Council is to be congratulated on taking timely action in expanding a number of primary schools in areas of pressure, as distinct from trying the late inadequate fixes of the last two years. 653 additional places have been added, although this is partially balanced by the removal of 269 places from other schools, in most cases where there are surplus places. As a result, .........
Parents of Kent primary aged children looking to enter school in September, or transfer from Infant to Junior schools have now received a letter informing them of the allocated school. All families who have not been offered their first choice school have also been told how to apply for waiting lists or submit an appeal.
The figures below show the outcome of a major planning operation by KCC following last year's primary school places crisis, producing the best figures for three years.At the time of writing, I am not aware of any local difficulties.
The headline is: the highest number and proportion of children being offered their first choice for three years; and the lowest number and proportion being allocated a place by Kent County Council after being offered no school of their choice - a fall of 20% over 2012. These very good figures are in spite of a steady rise in the number of primary aged children coming through the system. However there are still 661 children without a school of their choice. Kent and Medway parents who wish to seek my advice may like to consider using my Telephone Consultation to discuss options, so feel free to send me details of your situation and I will let you know if I have practical advice to offer. You will see from my Primary Appeals Information page, that sadly, for most schools chances of success at appeal are very unlikely.
Every now and then I have a media storm, but never one like the last two days (a little licence in the title). It began on Wednesday morning when I was invited to comment on Radio Kent about claims by the headteacher of Bromstone Primary School in Thanet that some headteachers were going out of their way to discourage children with a poor reputation and some with Special Education Needs from applying to their schools. Although I often disagree with him, he is absolutely right in this case. I have talked with parents of children with SEN who have visited schools and been told they can't cope and to go the school up the road "which is good for such children". A good way of keeping the SEN budget down! At primary level the HT talked of primary schools that identified difficult children through the nursery and set out to put them off. Again, I have come across parents reporting such experiences. Unprofessional schools, but looking out for one's league table and OFSTED performance, together with a more easily earned reputation for good discipline . Next, ...
I have previously covered the developing story of Bishops Down Primary below. That episode concluded with a Determination from the Schools Adjudicator ruling that KCC needed to hold the Planned Admission Number (PAN) at 60, although KCC was trying to reduce it to 30 on the grounds that, in spite of an earlier survey identifying that the school was able to admit 60 children every year, a fresh report had concluded this was impossible. To continue:........
(Article in progress, updated 1 Oct 2012)
Kent County Council has quietly released a Commissioning Plan setting out its proposals for new school places across the county for both primary and secondary schools, on a district by district basis, looking at the consequences for individual schools. The main headline is that over 10,000 new places need to be produced by 2016. You will find the full plan here. The Commissioning Plan identifies proposals for creating 5194 places by 2014, and at present there are no clear plans for the remaining 5000 places - although there is time now to consider options.
A preliminary press release focused on 35 additional classrooms being added in the current school year, catering for the additional reception classes which were set up to cater for mainly unexpected demand.
I believe this is an essential document; it is just regrettable that when it was proposed in 2009, on the back of warnings about school place shortages, no action was taken, resulting in some of the temporary fixes we have seen in the past two years, described elsewhere in this website. Details follow below.......
The document looks at each District, and names the schools due for expansion and where new primary schools are to be commissioned in the next four years, I summarise these as follows, although you need to check the plan for the detail......
LATEST (13/7): Kent County Council had its debate on the e-petition submitted by Bearsted parents on Thursday. The debate can be found in full at: http://www.kent.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/82135, 3 hours and five minutes into the meeting. There was unanimous praise for the leaders of the campaign (unique in my experience), although there was much discussion on county wide issues. KCC takes some pride in its place forecasting, although I would challenge that confidence, as we continue to see too many predictable crises in provision. Three important outcomes. The decision by the governors of St John's to expand to two forms of entry in September 2013, and to provide an additional Year One class for those children currently disappointed, will need to go out for consultation, and Department for Education approval, although there is a presumption in the School Admissions Code of Practice that such expansion will be approved. There will not be additional provision at St John's during the course of the academic year 2012-2013, so those children who have lost out this time round, will have to wait until September 2013, to amply to transfer into Year One. The problem for 2012 entry has been exacerbated by the large number of siblings, and this ought to be a factor tracked in the future.
Ther have been similar problems in the Kings Hill area of West Malling, and it appears this campagin has inspired parents there to set off on a similar trail. You will find a facebook page at: http://workingpartykingshill.blogspot.co.uk/.
Kent County Council has issued the following press release: "Primary school expansion in Grove Green brings welcome news to local parents......
Medway Council is proposing a new three form entry primary school on the site of the old Chatham South secondary school, after the birth rate in Chatham shows a 21% increase since 2005, coupled with increasing migration into the area probably as a result of cheaper housing costs. This follows the proposal to close two primary schools in Chatham just two yeas ago because of falling numbers! One of those schools, Ridge Meadow, did in fact close but the other, St John's Infant School, was saved after a decision by the Schools Adjudicator overruled Medway Council's proposal. A further proposed closure of St Peter's Infant School in Rochester was dropped. For 2012 entry, St John's is full, St Peter's has just two empty spaces, and there are just 17 places vacant in the whole of Chatham, all at Luton Infants School.
This all shows that school place forecasting is a difficult science, and Medway Council acknowledges it can do better...
On the surface, Kent primary school infant class placements, which took place at the end of March look well with a healthy 95% of children in Kent being offered one of their three choices, similar to last year. However, looking beneath the surface, a much more worrying picture emerges because of increased numbers in some areas as the number of children being allocated a school they hadn’t chosen has risen from 564 to 818 in two years, a frightening rise of 45%.
Analysis of the figures shows a sharp contrast between most of West Kent and most of East Kent and between urban and rural areas. Maidstone town is the most difficult area, with over 100 children allocated to schools they did not apply for and NO places free in any school in the town. Other problem areas include Tunbridge Wells with just 16 places left free out of the 920 available, and 75 children having none of their choices. 15 of those 16 free places are in Pembury School (just outside the town), and only exist as its capacity was expanded by 30 at short notice last year, to cater for the difficulties. Sevenoaks has 94 children allocated, 7 places left free; urban Dartford, 71 children allocated and 7 places left free; the Ramsgate area of Thanet, 65 children allocated, 8 places free, all in Bromstone Primary school in Broadstairs; Folkestone, 43 children allocated, 6 left free; and the area around Faversham with 37 children allocated.
Kent County Council, in a confidential analysis of issues produced in 2009, identified major problems for 2011 entry in Dartford, Gravesham, Thanet and Tunbridge Wells, some of these other issues being masked by rural parts of the districts having spare capacity. Sadly, little was done to alleviate the problems at a time when finances were easier. What is clear is that although Kent’s Primary Strategy of 2006 has a policy that there should be between 5-7% surplus capacity in an area, it has not planned to meet this policy. Where additional places have been added, too often these are last minute decisions and often in inappropriate schools. What we are seeing is an unwritten change of policy from trying to meet parental preferences, to a minimalist offering to children of a school somewhere, no matter how suitable.
Riverhead Infant School in Sevenoaks has soared to the top of the oversubscription table, turning away 54 first choices with the neighbouring Sevenoaks Primary School turning away 44 children, in fourth place. In between come Madginford Park in Maidstone, and Priory Infants, Ramsgate. In fifth place comes St James CofE VA Infant School, in Tunbridge Wells, then: Slade Primary, Tonbridge; Sandgate Primary, Folkestone; West Hill Primary, Dartford; St John's Catholic Primaryl, Gravesend; Joyden's Wood Infants, Dartford; St Peter's Methodist, Canterbury; Holy Trinity & St John's CofE Primary, Margate; St John's CofE Primary, Tunbridge Wells; St Stephen's Infant, Canterbury; Ethelbert Road Primary, Faversham; and St Mildred's Infants, Broadstairs. All these schools turned away 30 or more first choices.
At the other end of the table, 14 schools, nearly all in East Kent, have over half their places left empty. Three of these have all admitted fewer than 50% of their capacity for each of the last three years. How on earth can they remain viable? However, the political controversy over closing such schools is always intense, even if this would release resources to provide extra provision in places of greatest need. Further information on all the key pressure points at www.kentadvice.co.uk.
I now have detailed information on Kent and Medway primary school admission offers for September 2012. On the surface, all looks well with a healthy 95% of children in Kent being offered one of their three choices, similar to last year. However, with rising rolls the number of children being allocated a school they hadn’t chosen has risen from 564 to 818 in two years, a worrying rise of 45%.
You will find more general information in a separate article below. I have started to provide more detailed information on difficult areas, via the links below.
Analysis of the figures shows a sharp contrast between most of West Kent and most of East Kent and between urban and rural areas. Maidstone town is the most difficult area, with over 100 children allocated to schools they did not apply for (you will find an earlier article on part of the problem here) and NO places free in any school in the town. Other problem areas include:........
In 2009, a senior KCC officer produced a confidential paper for the then Director of Education, forecasting there would be an 8% shortfall in primary reception class places in Tunbridge Wells in 2011. This wasn't actually difficult to foresee, as these children had been born two years previously, and so the issue should have been raised earlier. No action was taken at a time when finance may well have been available to tackle the impending crisis.
In 2010, there were considerable problems in finding primary school placements in Tunbridge Wells. I wrote a newspaper article publicly outlining the issues, expanding it later in the year. No action was taken, but KCC explained that there wasn't actually a problem. I am not saying that KCC should have responded to my articles, but they had prior access to the same data I had subsequently unearthed.
In 2011, the expected forecast shortfall of 8% shortage of places in Tunbridge Wells proved exactly correct........