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Saturday, 01 April 2017 22:17

Kent and Medway Secondary School Allocations 2017: Kent on Sunday 1st April 2017

This article is based on four more comprehensive ones, elsewhere in this website: Kent Grammar Schools; Kent Non-Selective Schools; Medway Grammar Schools; Medway Non-Selective schools. 

The allocation of secondary school places took place at the beginning of March and this article surveys some of the consequences of the decisions taken.

The two biggest pressure areas appear to be in Thanet non-selective schools and North West Kent grammar schools, but there are plenty of others.  

The problems in Thanet are caused both by an influx of pupils and a massive polarisation of popularity with every one of the six non-selective schools full on allocation. Many parents try to avoid two schools, Royal Harbour and Hartsdown Academies and as a consequence these two were allocated 166 children who had no school of their choice, more than a quarter of the total in the county. These will include a large number of Children In Care, dispatched by London Boroughs; others are children from the EC and refugees, all bringing their own challenges to the schools. As a direct consequence, three schools are massively oversubscribed, with St George’s CofE, King Ethelbert and Charles Dickens (last Inspection – Special Measures proving no obstacle!) turning away 186, 126 and 53 first choices respectively. The first two are the first and third most popular non-selective schools in Kent, split by Valley Park in Maidstone, which turned away 179 first choices.

At the other end of the county, the pressure on North West grammar schools is intense, brought about through London families looking to secure grammar school places. The six schools have offered 280 out of county (ooc) places between them, including some from north of the Thames, with a further 62 at four Medway grammars. Dartford Grammar School, has placed a limit of 90 places for local boys, selecting those with the highest scores. It has offered places to 79 ooc boys, with many grammar qualified children being denied places at their local school. Dartford Grammar school has gone down the same route, allocating 100 places to local girls, alongside 55 oocs. 

There is heavy oversubscription at all four Dartford grammars, with Dartford Boys, the most popular school in Kent, turning away 257 grammar qualified first choices, by some way the highest number in the county, followed by Dartford Girls with 188. Next come three West Kent grammars: Tonbridge (151); Skinners (143); and Judd at (102), and then Wilmington Girls (Dartford) at 58.

Polarisation of parental choice is seeing the most popular schools receiving ever more applications, at the expense of those at the bottom of the pile. This trend has already seen the closure of four schools in recent years: Chaucer Technology School, Canterbury; Marlowe Academy, Thanet; Oasis Hextable Academy, serving Dartford; and Pent Valley School, Folkestone – all areas where there is now a critical shortage of places. The evidence suggests these will not be the last. The Chaucer and Pent Valley sites are planned to see replacement Free Schools.

There are three new provisions for September 2017, the first being the Weald of Kent Sevenoaks Annexe for girls, providing 90 new places. Many other grammar schools have expanded, with the super-selective Judd School adding 60 places over the past five years (now 180). Tunbridge Wells Boys has added 30 places to complement the girls’ increase in the annexe for West Kent children.

Cranbrook School, the last 13-18 grammar school in the County has at last begun a tentative change to entry at age 11, with 30 of its 90 day places (it also has 30 boarders) now being reserved for 11 year olds. I was surprised to see just 24 first choices turned away.

The third new provision appears almost accidental. The Leigh University Technical College, for 14-18 students choosing a vocationally oriented school, has failed to attract 50% of its planned intake in any of its first three years since opening, dropping to 25% in 2016. The rescue plan is to ditch the core philosophy and recruit at age 11, so the Inspiration Academy at Leigh UTC has rapidly come into being, proving a popular choice and attracting its full complement of 120 places. This has damaged Ebbsfleet Academy  for, although performing well, it has never been popular and now has 40% of its new Year Seven places empty, the only non-selective school in Dartford with vacancies.

The only completely new school approved so far is Maidstone School of Science and Technology, a Free School with an intake of 180 pupils, to be opened on the campus of the sponsoring schools, Valley Park and Invicta Grammar schools due to open in 2018.  This will coincide with extensive housing developments in the District, but threatens the survival of nearby New Line Learning Academy which had just 96 pupils choosing it, fewer than half of its Admission Number of 210. These were topped up with 50 Local Authority allocations, two thirds of the children in Maidstone with no school of their choice.

The urban myth that all grammar schools are oversubscribed, happens to be true for the first time ever in Medway, partially as a result of the London effect. This is in spite of four of the six grammars adding a total of 70 new places between them. Four schools are heavily oversubscribed, the most popular being the two super-selectives, Rochester Grammar (87 turned away), and Rainham Mark Grammar (62).

Altogether there is a net increase of 192 grammar school places across Kent for 2017, together with 70 in Medway. One puzzle is the £4 million investment by KCC at Maidstone Grammar to create another 30 places for boys, although the school is not oversubscribed this year. More importantly is the damage this has done to Oakwood Park Grammar in the same town, which has lost 30 boys as a result, leaving it with 65 vacancies. Meanwhile Maidstone Girls’ Grammar has 42 vacancies and Invicta Grammar has just filled by virtue of reducing its Admission Number by 20 girls. Plenty of room in Maidstone, contributing to a total of eight grammars in Kent having vacancies. 

Altogether there are six schools with over a third of their places empty, headed by Duke of York’s Royal Military School, a boarding Academy in Dover, having recently completed a £25 million building project built for an Admission Number of 104. The school carries a highly controversial reputation that has seen its intake dive to 12 pupils at this stage although historically this figure increases considerably with children transferring in at older age groups.

The other five also have a history of low admission numbers and will tend to lose further children as the system shakes down in coming months:  SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy, Walmer (43% vacancies – now out of Special Measures); Holmesdale Technology College, Snodland (42%); Ebbsfleet Academy (40%); Astor College, Dover (40% - until this year run by the same leadership as Duke of York’s); and High Weald Academy, Cranbrook (38%).

In Medway, there is also a growing pattern of polarisation, with Brompton Academy, as usual being the most oversubscribed school turning away 177 first choices, followed by Thomas Aveling with 53. Three schools account for over 100 of the Local Authority Allocations: St John Fisher RC; Victory Academy and Robert Napier, but all are over 70% filled.   

Last modified on Thursday, 27 July 2017 16:23

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  • Kent and Medway Primary School Allocations for September 2018

    Update: I have now received a copy of the (sketchy) Medway Press Release on Primary Allocations and have incorporated it below. 

    Excellent news for most Kent and Medway families applying for primary school places.

    A record proportion of Kent pupils who applied for Reception places at primary schools will be offered their first choice school today, at 89.5%Just 390 children have no school of their choice, a record low contrasting for example with 724 disappointed families in 2015. Unfortunately, the one page Medway Press Release is as usual almost content free, but informs us that over 97.5% of the 3347 Medway pupils were offered a place on their  application form, slightly up on last year's 97.4%.

    The promising Kent figures have been achieved because of a fall in numbers of children looking for places for the second successive year, 94 fewer than in 2017, and 773 fewer than in 2016. All 2018 data is from the KCC press release. In Medway there has been an increase of 17 children offered places in local primary schools.

    I am waiting for detailed oversubscription and vacancy figures at both Reception and Junior School level to be sent, both for Kent and Medway and will publish these as soon as possible. You may find the equivalent picture for 2017 allocations helpful.

    You will find advice below on what to do if you have not received a school of your choice, together with a breakdown of offers for both Kent and Medway over the past four years. 

    You will also find information and advice on appeals below and  here. In summary, if your school is one of the overwhelming majority where Infant Class Legislation applies, chances are negligible. 

    Read more...
    Written on Friday, 13 April 2018 15:14 1 comment Read 359 times
  • Permanent Exclusion, Home Education and Children Missing from Education in Kent 2016-17

    I have at last obtained comprehensive data for Permanent Exclusions and numbers leaving schools for Home Education across Kent in the school year 2016-17, in spite of spurious attempts by KCC to keep back the detail. For those few who may be interested, there is a section on the issue below, together with a ruling I have fought for for years. 

    68 children have been permanently excluded from schools and Pupil Referral Units across the county, 19 of these being from the primary sector. Most exclusions from one school were the five from the Knole Academy, for the second time in three years. Three excluded children have Statements of SEN or EHCP Plans, a sharp fall from the 14 statemented children of 2015-16. For that year Kent had the lowest permanent secondary school exclusion rate in the South East, and the thirteenth lowest in the country, a comparison that is likely to stand up again for 2016-17 when figures are published.

    There has been a sharp rise in the number of children leaving to be home educated from 770 in 2015-16, to 925 last year. Largest number is from Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy, under Tough love new management at 44, more than twice the 20 of the previous year. However, the school with the highest percentage is Ebbsfleet Academy, also Tough Love, at 4.4% of its roll, or more than one child from every class. 

    Altogether, 2,292 Kent children went missing from education at some time in 2016-17, 333 of whom were from Thanet. From the data of previous years, it is likely that some 500 were still missing at year’s end.

    I am absolutely convinced that the large majority of schools in Kent work very hard to support children at risk of exclusion and try to avoid losing them through one of the reasons described below, as far as possible. 

    Read more...
    Written on Sunday, 15 April 2018 07:24 2 comments Read 419 times
  • Medway Non Selective Secondary Allocations 2018

    Note: This article includes the out of county information I have now received from Medway Council. This is much more significant for grammar schools, and I have also now incorporated this into my Medway Grammar School article.  

    76% of children offered places in Medway’s eleven secondary schools on allocation in March were given their first choice school. All but 55 of the 1645 non-selective secondary school places available were filled a vacancy rate of just 3.3%, nearly all in two schools, St John Fisher Catholic and Hundred of Hoo Academy. This takes into account the net 30 places taken out of two schools since the 2017 allocations.

    Brompton Academy

    The most oversubscribed school was, as it has been for many years, Brompton Academy, turning away 193 first preferences or 47% of the total, the second highest figure across both Kent and Medway. Just four more of the eleven non-selective schools turned away children who put them first: Thomas Aveling school – 70; Strood Academy – 35; Rainham Girls – 17; and Howard School 15.

    136 Medway children received no school of their choice and were allocated places in local schools (Local Authority Allocations or LAA) by Medway Council, 58 at St John Fisher Catholic and 41 at Victory Academy.

    Further details below.

    Read more...
    Written on Wednesday, 04 April 2018 10:23 2 comments Read 369 times
  • Kent and Medway Primary Ofsted Sep 2017 - Feb 2017

    Kent Primary Schools inspected by OFSTED since September have again produced excellent outcomes overall, way above the national figures. Although there is just one new Outstanding School, Hernhill CofE Primary near Faversham; 85% of all 61 schools assessed were found to be Good, as against 76% nationally. Three academies: Beaver Green CofE and Kennington CofE both in Ashford; and Lansdowne Primary in Sittingbourne all had their first academy Inspection assessed Good, although they had each failed their previous Inspection under KCC. Two schools were found Inadequate.

     hernhill 1 

    Meanwhile, Medway schools continue to underperform, with just 60% Good, not including the one Outstanding School, Luton Junior, situated  in one of the most socially deprived parts of the Authority.  Although the current period includes a small sample of 10 schools, the percentage is higher than the same period of 2016-17 which was 50% Good, the higher figure wholly as a result of good performance by Local Authority schools, again with the one school Outstanding. Pleasingly, for the first time for many years, no Medway schools have been found Inadequate so far this year.

      Luton Junior

    Further details for both Kent and Medway below.

    Read more...
    Written on Monday, 09 April 2018 23:01 3 comments Read 285 times
  • Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Non-Selective Schools on Allocation for 2018

    92% of pupils offered places in Kent non-selective schools for September 2018 were given their first choice school on allocation in March. 44 of the 46 schools were full, although this figure will fall after successful grammar school appeals see some of the pupils pull out leading to considerable churning. Just 6% of the places available were left vacant, a fall every year since 2014’s 11% at this stage, the 543 new places since last year not having kept pace with the rise in pupil numbers.

    St Georges Foundation       Valley 2

    In some ways, the picture looks similar, although tighter, than 2017 with Thanet again having no non-selective places empty on allocation and two of the four most oversubscribed schools in the county: St George’s CofE Foundation School with 196 first choices turned away, and King Ethelbert’s School with 139. They are separated by Valley Park in Maidstone with 183 and Fulston Manor in Sittingbourne with 157. Shepway and Sevenoaks also have no vacancies in their schools, with five Local Authorities having spaces in just one school: Canterbury; Dartford; Gravesham; Swale; and Tunbridge Wells. All these situations still look critical for future years,  even though there are three new secondary schools in the pipeline.

    Tunbridge Wells looks especially challenging, with KCC appearing to have little idea of where much needed extra places are coming from over the next three years, This in a town where over two thirds of places go to children from faith families, and some 80 are sent to schools in neighbouring towns, most with a 30 mile round trip!

     The number of Local Authority Allocations (LAA), children who had been given no school of their choice being placed in schools with vacancies by KCC, has risen by 12% to 739.

    Seven schools would have more than a third of their places empty, but for the large numbers of LAAs as vacant spaces elsewhere dry up. They are headed up by: High Weald Academy, 64% spaces; New Line Learning Academy, 54%; and Oasis Academy Sheppey, with 43%

    I look more closely at the most oversubscribed schools and those with most vacancies below, together with the situation in each District, along with the impact of out of county applications.

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 29 March 2018 06:02 11 comments Read 2233 times
  • Holmesdale School - Ofsted Special Measures, down from Good

    It will come as no surprise to regular browsers of this website that Holmesdale School in Snodland has plunged from Ofsted ‘Good’ in 2014 to Special Measures, in four years. I have tracked its declining standards over this time, most recently reporting on the -0.7 measure in GCSE Progress 8 for 2017, classified as ‘Well below Average’, and also liable for government intervention.

    The Report is withering, although acknowledging that the latest headteacher is now able ‘to accurately identify inadequacies in leadership, teaching and pupils’ outcomes’. She has been in post for over a year, and in the school for longer, so slow progress! A new governing body, appointed in January 2017, presumably as an action to improve matters, has failed the students of the school according to the inspection, with every single Ofsted measure found inadequate.

    Holmesdale

     

    My own key finding was that the current year 11 cohort has lost over a third of its pupils since Year 7, presumably as dissatisfied parents found alternatives, a percentage way above any other school in the county, utterly unacceptable and surely sending out the loudest signal of all.

    The big question is, if so many of the indicators of poor performance were obvious back as far as 2015, when GCSE performance plummeted to a 29% A-C pass rate, and has never recovered, why was robust action not taken earlier, rather than just getting around to identifying weaknesses in the last few months.

    Read more...
    Written on Thursday, 29 March 2018 19:00 3 comments Read 633 times