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Saturday, 27 May 2017 22:22

Primary School Oversubscription in Kent: Kent on Sunday 27 May 2017

This newspaper article is based on a more comprehensive one, elsewhere in this website. 

2017 has seen a remarkable fall in the number of children applying for places in Kent primary schools, a drop of 679 or 3.8% of the total. As a result, there are 11.1% vacant places in Reception classes across the county, rising sharply from a figure of 6.5% in 2016.  

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 pressure points with: Ashford Rural; Faversham; Maidstone Rural; Shepway Rural & Hythe; and Swanley & District; all with a fifth or more places empty across their schools.

The most popular schools vary considerably year on year, with just Great Chart, Ashford and Fleetdown in Dartford in the top ten both years. Most oversubscribed school is Slade Primary in Tonbridge, turning away 43 first choices, followed by Great Chart, Ashford, with 41. Then come: Cobham, Gravesham with 35; Cecil Road, Gravesham, East Borough Primary, Maidstone, and St Mildred's Infants, all with 34 disappointed first choices; St John's CofE, Maidstone, 32; St Mary's CofE Primary Academy, Folkestone, 30 (a remarkable turn round from 2016 when the school had six vacancies); and Fleetdown and West Hill Primaries, Dartford, along with Langton Green Primary, Tunbridge Wells, all with 29.

At the other end of the scale, 18 schools have more than half their places empty, a sharp rise on last year.  Seven Kent primary schools have had at least two years being half empty or more.

KCC offered places to 404 children in schools they had not applied to as all their choices were full; known as Local Authority Allocated (LAA) children.

Please note that Reception Class Appeals will only succeed in exceptional cases, and for 2016 and where Infant Class Legislation applied, there were just 12 out of 248 upheld. For the overwhelming majority of disappointed applicants, the only chance of success, albeit usually a small one, is through the school waiting list.

The rest of this article summarises the situation in key towns, a more detailed examination across the county being available at my website www.kentadvice.co.uk.

ASHFORD:  after Great Chart, other popular schools around town are: Goat Lees; Kingsnorth; St Simon of England Catholic; Victoria Road; and Willesborough Infants, all with more than 10 first choices turned away. Overall, there were just 1% of vacancies in the urban area, 14 of the 16 at Downs View Infants in Kennington, OFSTED Outstanding, which has seen its popularity plummet this year from previously being regularly oversubscribed.

GRAVESHAM: For 2016, there was just one school with vacancies in urban Gravesend & Northfleet, this year there are 8 out of 18, as the number of applications fell by 5%. The two Catholic schools, which led the field in 2016, have both slipped in popularity although St Joseph’s, Northfleet, still has 26 first preferences turned away (37 in 2016). Most popular school is now Cecil Road, oversubscribed by 34 children for its 54 places. The large fall in pupil numbers has created plenty of vacancies in eight town schools.

MAIDSTONE: In 2016, urban Maidstone had just one vacancy in one of its 30 schools. For 2017, there are eleven schools with spaces. Most popular is East Borough, with 34 disappointed families. It is followed by St John’s CofE with 32, St Michael’s CofE Infant with 25 and Brunswick House with 15. There is a 5% fall in Year R pupil numbers since 2016.

SEVENOAKS: A few years ago, Sevenoaks town was the hotbed of primary school admissions, with Riverhead Infants regularly most oversubscribed primary school in Kent, but the pattern has now changed dramatically. Lady Boswell’s CofE is the most popular local school for the second year running, turning away 18 first choices, followed by St Thomas Catholic with eight first choices turned away. Meanwhile, Riverhead has surely seen the most dramatic fall in the county, down to disappointing just one family who placed it first choice for 2017. The only school with vacancies is Seal Primary, just outside the town.

SHEPWAY: The overall picture in Folkestone remains similar to that in 2016 with one startling exception, the popularity of St Mary’s CofE Primary Academy having soared from to being the eighth most oversubscribed school in Kent turning away 30 first choices, after having six vacancies last year. Altogether 9 of the 17 schools are oversubscribed, Sandgate and St Eanswythe’s which usually head the list, next on 24.

SITTINGBOURNE: The number of oversubscribed schools in the town has dropped from nine to two out of 14, the total number of Reception age children having fallen by 12%. Most oversubscribed is Tunstall CofE, rebuilt on a new site just outside town, doubling its previous size to 60 children, but disappointing 16 first choices.

THANET: The most oversubscribed school is St Mildred's Infants, turning away 34 first choices. It is followed by Callis Grange Infants and St Ethelbert's Catholic with 23, and Priory Infants and Holy Trinity & St John’s CofE with 22.

However, the big story here is not of individual schools but of the sheer unpopularity of the four schools run by the Kemnal Academy Trust (TKAT) which have 111 vacancies between them out of 254 available, which would have been much higher if it were not for 33 LAA children sent to them by KCC. The school with most vacancies is Ramsgate Arts Primary School, a new Free School, with 42 of its 60 places empty.

TONBRIDGE: Apart from one vacancy at rural East Peckham Primary, every one of the 13 Tonbridge primary schools were full after April allocations (two schools with spaces in 2016). One in twelve of all children are LAAs, the highest proportion in Kent.

Slade Primary is the most oversubscribed primary school in Kent, turning away 43 first choices. Next come Sussex Road, with 26, and St Margaret Clitherow Catholic, with 11.

Even St Stephen’s Primary, placed in Special Measures by Ofsted earlier this year, is full, albeit with seven LAA children.

TUNBRIDGE WELLS:For the second consecutive year, just one school with vacancies -  Temple Grove Academy having 24 of its 60 places unfilled. Most oversubscribed is Langton Green, turning away 29 first choices, followed by Claremont with 24 and Bishops Down with 17. The town has the second highest proportion of LAA children in Kent, at 7%, or 60 children. 

Last modified on Thursday, 27 July 2017 16:18

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