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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 Sunday, 11 March 2018 17:08

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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. 

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    Written on Friday, 13 April 2018 15:14 1 comment Read 272 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.

    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. 

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    Written on Sunday, 15 April 2018 07:24 2 comments Read 363 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.

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    Written on Wednesday, 04 April 2018 10:23 2 comments Read 334 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.

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    Written on Monday, 09 April 2018 23:01 3 comments Read 247 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.

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    Written on Thursday, 29 March 2018 06:02 11 comments Read 2012 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.

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    Written on Thursday, 29 March 2018 19:00 3 comments Read 566 times