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 places being 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 94 children allocated, 7 left free; urban Dartford, 71 children allocated and 7 places left free; south Thanet (around Ramsgate), 65 children allocated, 8 places free all in one school in Broadstairs; Folkestone, 43 children allocated, 6 left free; and the area around Faversham with 37 children allocated. There are also issues in Tonbridge.
I shall be posting more detailed information on these areas shortly. You will find information on the Medway situation, here.
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, and last year, when I pointed out that chickens were coming home to roost, KCC’s response was that across Kent there was not a problem as a whole and in any case these figures were out of date! 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. Last year Claremont Primary School exposed this poverty of planning. What we are seeing is an unwritten change of policy from trying to meet parental preferences, to a minimalist offering of children a school somewhere, no matter how suitable.
The Primary strategy also states that all through primary schools should only have two forms of entry except in exceptional circumstances; but this fallen by the wayside as extra classes are squeezed into often unsuitable schools accommodated by temporary classrooms.
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, but 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.