The increasing numbers of Kent and Medway children applying for secondary school places has created different outcomes for children in the two Authorities. Whilst Kent has seen nearly 300 more children offered their first preference school and a total of 743 new places above the final Planned Admission Numbers (PAN) of 2016 (see below), there is still a slight dip in the number of successful first preferences, by 0.9 per cent to 85% Sadly, 616 children did not get any of their choices which, whilst more than last year, is still better than 2015 and most previous years. KCC has been working hard negotiating with popular schools to admit additional pupils with considerable success, in what they describe as “a challenging year”. The number of out of county children being awarded Kent places has hardly changed from 2016, settling at 810, although some of these will drop out as local alternatives present themselves.
The picture is very different in Medway although it is hard to be precise for, as always, their data and press release are very skimpy, the latter also being ridiculously upbeat and positive. However, the bottom line is that there is a fall of over 5% in the proportion of children being offered their first choice of school, and a near doubling of the number getting none of their choices from 77 to 142 children (approximate figures I have calculated from the percentages given). According to Cabinet Member Martin Potter “This is great news”!
As well as more information, and the tables of outcomes below, you will find a District by District survey of the information I have at present, required scores for super-selective schools, and initial advice at the foot of the article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix.
I will update this article as I receive further information. As always, when I get a school by school breakdown, I shall publish a fuller analysis, the 2016 articles for Kent grammars here, non-selectives here and Medway schools here.
All this is against a backdrop of national figures showing a worsening picture with a steady fall across the country of numbers being awarded first preference, and a rise in the number with no school of their choice to go to. This is in spite of a government spokesman quoted in the Times Educational Supplement today who falsely stated: ‘The proportion of parents getting a place at their first choice of school remains stable, and last year almost all parents got an offer at one of their top three preferred schools’. He needs to get out more!
In both Kent and Medway, the proportion of unsuccessful first choices is inflated when compared with other Authorities, as it includes a considerable number of families who have put a grammar school first, although their child has not qualified through the Kent Test.
Most of the additional Kent children who have been offered their first choice will have benefited from schools willing and able to expand creating a further 215 places in grammar schools and 528 in non-selective schools (however 136 of these were in schools which did not fill any of them!). 74 places have been removed by schools that no longer need them. None of this is a comfort to the 616 children who have none of their choices (but see end of paragraph), although many of these situations will be resolved in the churning that follows over the next few months. This includes around 800 appeals expected to be successful, creating places elsewhere that are often snapped up through re-allocation. Last year some 200 other children were offered places at oversubscribed Kent schools they had appealed to, even before the appeals took place. Even the number of 616 is itself misleadingly high, as it includes many children who put just one or two schools on their list and will have made alternative plans such as a Private School if unsuccessful. Other families will have wrongly assumed they would be offered their only choice. Just nine of the reallocations were to grammar schools, although a number of the others will be grammar school to non-selective, especially in Dartford to Ebbsfleet Academy. I have already been contacted by some of the latter unfortunates.
You will find last year's slightly more upbeat article here.
| Kent Secondary School Allocations: March 2017 |
|Kent pupils ||2017 ||2016 ||2015 ||2014 |
| || |
|% || |
|% || |
|% || |
|Offered a first preference ||13,446 ||80.5% ||13,159 ||81.4% ||12,796 || 80.5% ||13,092 ||83.6 |
|Offered a second preference ||1,857 ||11.1% ||1,840 ||11.4% || 1,612 || 10.1% ||1,512 ||9.6% |
|Offered a third preference ||587 ||3.5% ||549 ||3.4% || 611 || 3.8% ||478 ||3.1% |
|Offered a fourth preference ||191 ||1.1% ||196 ||1.2% ||234 || 1.5% ||181 ||1.2% |
|Allocated by Local Authority ||616 ||3.7% ||428 ||2.7% || 641 || 4.0% ||404 ||2.6% |
|Total number of Kent pupils offered ||16,697 || ||16,172 || || 15,894 || ||15,667 || |
The following table shows nearly three thousand Kent children not taking part in the process, including SEN children with an Education, Health Care Plan who are allocated to Mainstream or Special Schools by a different process, and those looking to their private schools for their secondary education.
|Size of Kent Year 6 Cohort |
|Year ||2017 ||2016 ||2015 ||2014 |
|Total number of pupils in the cohort ||19,411 ||18,797 ||18,193 ||17,658 |
Out of County Applicants
The previously inexorable rise in out of county children being offered places in Kent schools appears to have tailed off at 810 for 2017 entry, but it needs to be borne in mind both that a considerable number of the 442 London children who were offered Kent places last year will have eventually settled for places nearer home, and also that 460 Kent children were offered places going the other way out, of county. The headlines inevitably focus on pressure on grammar schools, last year 452 ooc children being offered grammar school places, just over half the total but, for example, last year 122 of the 140 Medway children taking up places in Kent schools went to non-selective schools. Medway does not release the number of ooc children offered places in its schools, merely noting the 625 applicants, a rise of nearly 20% over 2016. As in previous years, most of these latter will looking at grammar school places.
|Out of County Applicants to Kent Secondary Schools 2017 |
|Year ||2017 ||2016 ||2015 ||2014 |
|Out of county applicants ||2,744 ||2,624 ||2,299 ||1,991 |
|Offers to out of county pupils at Kent schools ||810 ||803 ||757 ||602 |
The gaps in the following table are for data not released. In most previous years, the press release has quoted rounded up figures, or 'useful' approximations. 2017 may also require further refinement.
Medway Secondary School Allocations March 2017
|Medway Pupils ||2017* ||2016** ||2015 ||2014 |
| ||Number ||% ||Number ||% ||Number ||% ||Number ||% |
|Offered a first preference ||2507* ||79% ||2536 ||84.3% ||2499 ||80.7% ||2423 ||81.2% |
|Offered a second preference ||381* ||12% ||283 ||9.4% || || || || |
Offered a place at one of their top
|* || ||2890 ||96.1% || || ||2813 ||94.3% |
|Offered a place at one of their six choices ||3031* ||95.5% ||2931 ||97.4% ||2940 ||95% ||2865 ||96.0% |
|Allocated a place by Medway Council ||142* ||4.5% ||77 ||2.6% ||155 ||5.0% ||120 ||4.0% |
Total number of Medway
children offered places
|3174 || ||3008 || ||3095 || ||2984 || |
* Approximations extrapolated from percentages on flimsy press release.
** Calculated from a subsequent Freedom of Information Request. For 2017, it is still on its way.
I have no further information about Medway schools for the sections below at present.
With the increasing demand for school places, Kent will have to increase its capacity with another 1500 children expected to be looking for secondary places within three years, not counting inward migration. For 2017 entry, an additional 743 additional places have been created, including one new school, as detailed below, but one wonders how much longer can this approach continue. I am personally conscious of the increasing number of enquiries I have been receiving from London families, especially drawn to Kent's and increasingly to Medway's grammar schools. At least three more new schools are planned to open in the next few years, the first to come on stream being the Maidstone School of Science and Technology to open in September 2018, a new six form entry non-selective school adjacent to Valley Park and Invicta Grammar (pity the poor residents of the area as they cope with the traffic!). Whilst this is planned to meet major expansion of Maidstone, it illustrates one of the collateral problems of setting up attractive new schools, as the less popular New Line Learning Academy, with over half its Year 7 places vacant this year, will be very much at risk until demand catches up.
The whole picture is much more fluid than a few years ago, with more school closures of unpopular schools - Oasis Hextable Academy, Marlowe Academy, and Pent Valley - and popular schools having much more flexibility to add on additional places, but the improvement is due to new flexibilities available to schools to expand if the demand is there.
We are seeing a quiet revolution in the provision of places at popular schools, as many use formal and informal ways to increase their capacity. Last year, a total of over 200 additional places were added to grammar schools to meet increased demand as part of a formal expansion procedure, including 30 at: Borden; Dartford Grammar; Sir Roger Manwood's and Wilmington Girls. This was before successful appeals which took others well over their Planned Admission Number, by far the biggest increase being at Invicta Grammar School which, having seen an additional 63 places offered on appeal, ended up with 241 girls in Year 7, 49 over the Planned Admission Number (PAN), followed by Mayfield Grammar with 26 more girls than the PAN. Weald of Kent Grammar School made clear that, in its build up to the new Sevenoaks Annex to be opened in September 2017, it would be happy to take up to 60 children over its PAN this year, if the demand was there.
One school to watch this year is The Judd, which has made a major shift in its oversubscription criteria for 2016 entry to provide more places for Kent boys. Up until 2015, the school offered boys, no matter where they live, places through high scores in the Kent Test, offering a total of 41 out of its 155 to out of county boys last year. This year, it has given priority to boys from an inner area which is almost exclusively in Kent, still on high scores, but providing a maximum of 20 places to out county boys out of the total of 155 to be offered places. You will find further details here. Wilmington Boys and Girls Grammars made similar moves last year, although still admitting a high proportion of oocs, but Dartford Grammar and Dartford Girls' Grammar made moves in the opposite direction, increasing their proportion of out county children. It is not surprising that the media get it wrong so often reporting on this complex story!
It is in the non-selective sector that supply and demand are most at odds, with ten Kent schools currently having more than a third of their places empty in Year 7, nearly all struggling with their image and having featured on this website over the past year, through poor OFSTEDs or academic performance. At the other end of the scale, many oversubscribed non-selective schools grew further by simply offering places in 2015, or else via successful appeals, with Bennett Memorial, Canterbury Academy, Knole Academy and Valley Park all taking in more than 20 children over capacity, but with just 5 successful appeals between them, and many others performing similar legerdemain at the expense of their less popular neighbours.
Expansion of Kent's secondary schools
I have today received details of the extra 743 completely new places created in Kent's secondary schools in order to meet demand in areas, and to cater for parental choice as they try to avoid some less popular schools. In addition a number of temporary enlargements from last year have followed through as schools try and manage the ebb on flow of demand year on year. Many of the 406 additional non-selective places will not be needed after grammar school appeals remove some of them, making forecasting actual demand and planning especially difficult.
Where numbers are small, the extras are likely to fade away in 'the churn' and so will cause no re-organisation needs, but headteachers will currently be engaged in complex calculations to try and estimate future numbers, with severe financial consequences if they calculate incorrectly. I will be publishing oversubscription and vacancy figures in about a fortnight.
Note: PAN = Planned Admission Number, the published maximum number of children to be admitted before applications are made. LAC = Local Authority Allocations, pupils who did not apply for a school, but were allocated place there after being awarded none of their choices.
Places created where there is additional pressure on non-selective schools include: Ashford
- not really on this list, but for some reason an extra 20 places were created at Homewood School, leaving it with 47 vacancies from its 410 places. Perhaps the increased PAN was to give it the largest intake in the county! Apart from the highly oversubscribed Wye Free School, still running on 90 places, now the smallest school in Kent, and John Wallis Academy, plenty of places elsewhere.
Canterbury - The big expansion came last year with an additional 70 places being added, but just two non-selective schools having vacancies at this point, Whitstable Community College and Spires having 52 vacancies, in spite of picking up 64 Local Authority allocations between them. A new Free School is planned to open on the Chaucer site in a couple of years, but the pressure in Canterbury City is now. However, with local 59 grammar school appeals being successful last year, there is likely to be considerable churning before September.
Dartford - The opening of the Inspiration Academy on the Leigh UTC site has provided 120 extra places. The reason for this new school coming into existence is that the Leigh UTC into which it will feed is failing to attract students, so the concept is being scrapped in favour of an all through school. This has made a great hole in applications for Ebbsfleet Academy, with 67 unfilled places out of 168, in spite of having increased its PAN by 18 for some reason. There are currently no vacancies anywhere else in Dartford, although another new school has been proposed for the town probably for 2019, as well as further developments for the Ebbsfleet Garden City.
Dover- This only gets a mention because it is at the other end of the scale, with 20% of all vacancies in the county, at Astor College, the strangely named SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy in Walmer and the highly controversial Duke of York's Royal Military School. The last named is a boarding school which does recruit children through the first three secondary years, but has just twelve places offered at this time out of 104, even when compared with last year's dire 36 (which grew to 60 by the time school started last September). This is surely a stark warning for a school operating in highly resourced premises including a major new multi-million pound building project. It appears that its reputation is damaging the school more than the pull of the new facilities.
Gravesham - Last year three schools increased size by a total of 71 places, this year another 69 at five non-selective schools, including 30 at Thamesview. The only schools with vacancies are the two Northfleet's. This is a major problem area in the county, with no obvious solution to the pressures other than expansion of existing schools which must surely be nearly at saturation.
Maidstone - as I wrote last year, probably the most polarised town in Kent with heavily oversubscribed schools and others, notably New Line Learning and Swadelands with 106 vacancies between them. Along with Cornwallis, they have 76 LACS, Valley Park, one of the most popular schools in Kent, has retained its temporary expansion of last year to a PAN of 270, with Maplesdon Noakes and St Simon Stock also proving very popular. Although there is considerable development in the town and enormous pressure on primary places, I still doubt there is any overall shortage in the town for the next couple of years. In 2018, the new six form entry Maidstone Science and Technology College opens next door to Valley Park and it will be interesting to say the least to see its impact on other local schools. It was originally planned for 2017, and if this had happened it would surely have been curtains for one of them. UPDATE:
Sevenoaks - Just three schools. The new Trinity School in Sevenoaks, now in its fourth year of operation has expanded its intake by 60 to a total of 120, but doesn't seem to have affected Knole Academy greatly.
Shepway - Just two urban schools left after the closure of Pent Valley last summer, but numbers appear to have worked out after Brockhill Park filled after increasing its PAN by 36. Folkestone Academy nearly filled, but accepted 20 LACs. A new Free School is proposed for the site of the closed Pent Valley School. For the first time ever, Marsh Academy in New Romney filled all its 180 places at this stage.
Swale - Just one school with vacancies at this stage, Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy with 98 of its 390 places vacant even after 47 LACs. With the school having difficulty in looking attractive to island families there is extra pressure on the Sittingbourne schools, Westlands and Fulston Manor Academies having long been amongst the most oversubscribed schools in Swale. Sittingbourne Community College has also filled after expanding by 30 places for the second year, and with Sittingbourne being recognised as a town that needs extra capacity the problem is near breaking point. At the other end of Swale in Faversham, the Abbey School has filled for the first time even having expanded by 20 places.
Thanet - The most difficult district in Kent by some way, with many families strategy being to avoid certain schools, but not a single place vacant anywhere and 63 extra places having been created at three schools, half of them at Ursuline College and St George's CofE Foundation School (for several years the most oversubscribed non-selective school in the county). The problem is the avoidance of Hartsdown Academy and Royal Harbour Academy (damned by virtue of having absorbed the now closed Marlowe Academy). Both schools actually filled but with 166 LACs between them, over a quarter of the county's total, that is 166 very unhappy families. The extreme pressure on the district can be measured by the need to increase Royal Harbour Academy by 31 places, surely breaking all the criteria for choosing schools to expand.
Tonbridge - 30 extra places created at Hugh Christie Technology College catering for 30 LACs, after it filled with preferences for the first time, having increased in popularity year on year. In spite of Hayesbrook's Good OFSTED and high GCSE performance it finished with plenty of vacancies, even after 36 LAC's were placed there. Why so many LACs in Tonbridge; I suspect it is the result of Skinners Kent Academy reducing its intake (see next entry)?
Tunbridge Wells - The only expansion this year was at Hadlow Rural Community College, by 15 places filling the school at this stage for the first time since it opened for years ago. The highly popular Skinners Kent Academy has reduced its intake by 30 from last year, perhaps because of pressure on space. Why else? Apart form High Weald Academy still struggling badly to attract students, there were no vacancies anywhere else in the District.
Expanding Grammar Schools
Biggest development is of course the opening of the Sevenoaks Annex of Weald of Kent Grammar School in September, built for an intake of 90 girls. Because the school took a temporary increase of 55 last year on its home site, there is just a net additional number of September of 35 girls. Not surprisingly the school has filled, although some of its intake may be coming across the county boundary from East Sussex or Bromley. Tonbridge Grammar has moved up to an intake of 180 from its previous temporary PAN of 173. Biggest surprise is the decision by the Judd to increase by a whole class for a second year taking its total to 180. With Tunbridge Wells Boys admitting an extra 30 boys, and Skinners' and Tunbridge Wells Girls' an additional five each, there should be few problems for Kent grammar qualified children in West Kent.
The pressure in North West Kent remains intense with children from South East London and across the river in Thurrock clamouring for places. I don't yet have figures for oversubscription but I anticipate they will be even higher this year. The only school to expand is Mayfield Grammar which just filled in 2016 even running its own test alongside the Kent Test. This year it has increased by 25 places to 170, and appears to have filled without difficulty.
The other main area under pressure is the south coast, with all four grammars admitting by a local Test as an alternative to the Kent Test. Again we don't yet know oversubscription levels, but I suspect as last year they will be high at Dover Girls', Folkestone Girls' and Harvey Grammars, with Dover Boys' Grammar having just 12 vacancies after keeping last year's temporary expansion of 30 places to 150.
For reasons that remain unclear KCC has provided £4 million to expand Maidstone Grammar by 30 places to 205 boys, although there is plenty of capacity in the town and Oakwood Park is suffering as a consequence. There is similar spare capacity for the girls, although Invicta, in spite of being oversubscribed, has chosen to reduce its intake by 18 girls to 192. This makes six and a half classes, and as they normally uphold a large number of appeals (but see article here as a possible consequence) the reduction will easily be made up.
No expansion in Canterbury although Barton Court (expanded temporarily to 150 last year and has kept this figure) and Simon Langton Boys are both full, but Simon Langton Girls is paying heavily for the controversy swirling about it, with 39 vacancies - last year there were just seven.
In Swale all three grammar schools are full and likely to be considerably oversubscribed. Dane Court Grammar in Thanet is full.
Grammar Schools with Vacancies
The following grammar schools had more than ten vacancies at allocation on 1st March: Chatham and Clarendon; Dover Boys; Highworth Girls; Maidstone Girls; Norton Knatchbull; Oakwood Park; Simon Langton Girls. Fewer than ten vacancies: Sir Roger Manwood's. Between them, these eight schools have 241 vacancies.
Super-Selective Grammar Schools
I will update this section as I receive appropriate information. Cranbrook (is it SS with its one Year 7 class of 30 children? Cut off 346 in area). Dartford Grammar (Boys): In area - 352, out of area 387 (374 in 2016). Dartford Girls: In area - 347 (up from 331); out of area - 385. The Judd: Inner Area 364 (2016 - 362); Outer Area 400 (2016 - 391). Rainham Mark Grammar 529 (Medway Test) Rochester Grammar 546 (Medway Test). The Skinners 371 (not all applicants with 371 have been offered places on distance grounds). Tonbridge Grammar: Area List - 372 - BUT only one girl scoring 372 was offered (the distance tie-break fell at 0.726). Governor List - 395 - BUT only one girl scoring 395 was offered (the distance tie-break fell at 13.736).
What can you do if you don't have a school of your choice?
As noted above, don't panic.
So what next? If you are not awarded the school of your choice, then certainly go on the waiting list for every school you have applied for and still wish to consider. You have the right to appeal to any and every school for which you have been turned down. My article on 2016 appeals should be taken as guidance only, a classic example of the warning of taking data too much to heart being Chatham and Clarendon Grammar in Ramsgate, where after a 24% success rate in 2015, the school changed its Appeal Panel provider and saw nearly double to 47%, as they sought to admit more children. You will also find plenty of free advice in the appeals sections of this website at: Kent Grammar Appeals; Medway Grammar Appeals; and Oversubscription Appeals. There is also copious grammar school appeal advice on the 11 plus Exams website, although it is not necessarily Kent specific and in any case often written for out of county candidates who have different expectations and perceptions, so be careful.
Obviously, you should talk to your primary school who should be able to offer advice and, if you are not sure of the school to which you have been allocated, ask for another visit, which is likely to be as an individual rather than with the crowd who were there on Open Day.
You also have the option of making a late application for a fresh school, called an In Year Application from 16th March in Kent, or go on any school’s waiting list after 28th April. Details here (page 20). You can apply for as many schools as you wish through this process. Every year we see a considerable ‘churning’ effect as children take up places off the waiting lists, as children win appeals at higher preferences, and some unhappy families remove themselves from the state system, so don't lose hope!
Medway is far more convoluted and parents and I often find it difficult to pin down a shifting procedure especially with late grammar school applications, the Admission Booklet being of limited assistance. The phrase ‘at the discretion of the Student Services Management Team’ is used too often in discussion.
I regret I have retired from my Personal Appeals Service, being the only Kent and Medway appeals specialist I am afraid. I still offer a Telephone Advisory Service which provides an initial hard-nosed information and advisory assessment.