An extra 30 temporary places have been put in at Willesborough Infant School, of which 17 remain empty but, apart from this the only school with vacancies in the town is the new Finberry Primary Academy, with eight spaces, although these will fill as new housing developments in the area come on stream. Great Chart, with 41 first choices turned away, and Kingsnorth CofE Primary with 28, are also under extreme pressure because of building developments, and families buying new houses here as elsewhere are often in for a great shock when they discover there are no school places nearby. Repton Manor was provided with an additional 30 temporary places to ease the pressure in this part of town, but was still oversubscribed. Most of the 26 families with no school of their choice in town have been offered places at John Wallis Primary Academy, which has clearly not yet overcome the poor reputation of its predecessor school, as distinct from the successful secondary section.
In rural areas, the two most popular schools are the highly successful Challock Primary and Lady Joanna Thornhill, in Wye, with 13 and 12 first choices turned away respectively, as families are happy to travel distances to what they perceive as the best schools. Otherwise there are no problems in the rural hinterland, with the highest proportion of empty spaces in the county at 16%.
As in previous years, there is enormous polarisation in the nine Canterbury city schools, with five schools well oversubscribed, led by Wincheap Foundation School rejecting 17 first choices. Three schools share all 74 vacancies between them, each over half empty, Parkside Primary having two thirds of its 30 places vacant. Blean, just outside the City remains popular with 12 first choices turned away, but some of these will have been from within Canterbury itself. Otherwise, there appear few issues, with the overwhelming number of families getting their first choice.
Along the coast, there are increasing problems in Herne Bay as a result of new building development, with Hampton Primary having soared in popularity since becoming an academy, turning away 30 first choices for its 120 places, even though an additional 30 were added in 2014. Herne CofE Infants turned away 33 first choices for its 90 places, some of the surplus being picked up by Herne Bay Infants which is now full, so there are no vacancies in the town. The only two schools along the coastline with empty spaces are Reculver, which appears to have some Herne Bay children allocated, and St Mary’s Catholic in Whitstable.
Only Goudhurst and Kilndown, the local OFSTED Outstanding school well oversubscribed turning away 17 first choices, but with just three schools with significant vacancies, Brenchley & Matfield, Horsmonden (down from its previous popularity under the last head) and Sandhurst. I have written about Cranbrook CofE, fully subscribed for 2016, several times previously, and so it is no surprise that the latest ‘permanent’ headteacher has left after less than two years, replaced by yet another interim head who, by my reckoning, is the eighth leader in less than two and a half years. Two years ago it was to become an academy sponsored by the Canterbury Diocese, but there is now no mention of this.
3% vacancies in the whole borough, the large majority in two town schools, Temple Hill and Wentworth. These are two of the three schools along with Brent Primary, that have seen an additional 90 temporary places created after applications were received to ease the pressure. Without them there would have been a severe overall shortage. Temple Hill has 23 children allocated by KCC who did not apply for the school. The other two schools with vacancies are Knockhall Academy and Sutton at Hone with 12. Fleetdown turned away 53 first choices sharing the position of most oversubscribed school in Kent, Dartford Bridge Community (23) and Our Lady’s Catholic (20) also proving popular.