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Thursday, 13 September 2012 11:56

Hadlow Rural Community School, Sevenoaks Christian School , Wye Free School

Kent's three new secondary Free Schools, Hadlow Rural Community School, Sevenoaks Christian School and Wye Free School are all accepting applications for September 2013, and places will be offered independently from the KCC process for admission in 2013. This means that parents may apply to the Free Schools as well as completing the Kent Secondary admission form which allows up to four maintained schools to be named, with confidence that neither application will be harmed by the other. Schools will not be told if children have received a second offer elsewhere, so that such children will receive two offers on March 1st if they qualify for a place at one of the free schools.

I anticipate that this additional opportunity will encourage many double applications, so that the new schools may be swamped, and some of those offered places may well not be serious candidates. The down side of this is that of course 240 Kent children will be holding two offers in March 2013, when offers are made; and schools will have no idea which way those 240 children will go.........

 

Then, up to 240 Kent secondary school places will be freed up in the system when parents choose to tell the school they are declining, of their decision. This will create a churning effect in April, especially in Sevenoaks, as schools re-offer vacant spaces, creating further uncertainty as schools lower down the chain lose students, an effect which will be felt through the summer.

This effect will only last for one year, as the schools will join the Kent co-ordinated admission process for 2014 entry. The details below are not yet finalised, as the schools have to go through a process of being 'signed off' by the Department for Education, which this year happened as late as June or July for some schools. A few which failed to attract enough students were not allowed to run, so some parents may well choose to hang on to those two offers until the last minute. In particular oversubscription criteria could (but are unlikely to) change in the coming months, if found unacceptable to the DfE.  

The positive outcome of the new Sevenoaks Christian School remains that 120 additional places have been created in Sevenoaks (half of which go to children of families with a Christian commitment, the remainder being offered on distance grounds) , which will surely go almost wholly to children who have not passed or taken the Kent Test. We shall now be able to see if the demand for non-selective places is there, although I have seen little sign of a major shortage of non-selective places locally.  Clearly one of the Sevenoaks Christian School and the local Knole Academy, which are in direct competition for these local students, will lose out. You will find more information on the Christian School website, or in previous articles at the links below. 

In Ashford there is currently  sufficient capacity for all non-selective children, although new building developments will change that, and a new state school is planned on the other side of Ashford to meet this demand. The Free School's likely home in the historic buildings of Wye College should prove a particular draw (shades of Hogwarts). Looking at the demography of the area, coupled with the aims of the school one can see that the project has high social potential. However, the intake of just 90 is very small for a non-selective school, especially one planning to offer the range of activities promised on the website.   One can also expect demand from the West of Canterbury, where children in the new Chartham developments in particular are unable to gain access to the popular schools, although I think it unlikely that many will qualify for admission at Wye. The rather complicated distance criteria focusing on distance of other non-selective schools from the home, which is the main sorting mechanism, was tried out by Cornwallis Academy a few years ago, but abandoned as it proved too unwieldy. You will find more information at the Wye Free School website.  

Hadlow Rural Community School has an intake of just 30 children, which is surely too small to enable them to offer a rounded education. Indeed the school aims to provide an alternative curriculum for those young people for whom land based is a first choice route and for those that have found it difficult to access a traditional education. It is recruiting into Years 7, 8 and 10 for September 2013. I am not aware of any other school offering such early specialisation, and one worries for children who turn out not to have a vocation for land based employment, especially as the main oversubscription criterion is distance from the school, which is irrelevant to its ethos and aim.  Some children will probably come from the nearest centre of population, Tonbridge, and I anticipate that many if not most of the applicants for Years 8 & 10, will come from children unhappy with their current schools, which is surely anticipated by the second target group of children - "those that have found it difficult to access a traditional education". Visit the Hadlow website for more details. 

Last modified on Sunday, 14 April 2013 07:53

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