Article that appeared in Kent on Sunday, 22 May 2016. Based on fuller article which you will find here.
This year’s increase of 591 in the number of children offered places in Kent primary school Reception Classes has been met with a similar increase in the number of school places available, and the welcome news that the proportion of children gaining a school of their choice has also increased, to a record in recent years of 96.7%. Overall, there are 6% empty places, the same as last year, but these figures hide a growing number of local pressures focused on the towns. The biggest problems this year are in Sevenoaks and Tonbridge, no empty spaces at all, Maidstone, one space, Gravesham, three, and Tunbridge Wells seven, each in just one school.
The ten most popular schools this year are: Fleetdown Primary, Dartford, and Loose Primary, Maidstone both turning away 53 first choices; Great Chart, Ashford, 41; Holy Trinity and St John’s CofE, Margate, 38; St Joseph’s RC in Northfleet, Sandgate in Folkestone, and Claremont in Tunbridge Wells all on 37; St Michael’s CofE Infant in Maidstone, 35, St Crispin’s Infant, Westgate on 34; and Herne Infant on 33.
At the other end of the scale, there are fourteen schools with 50% or more vacancies.
I would encourage parents to apply to go on the waiting list for any of their preferences that have not been offered, as there will be movement over the next four months. This is your best chance of getting a school of your choice, as chances at appeal are generally very low because of Infant Class Legislation which legally restricts class sizes. For 2015 entry, of 426 primary appeals registered where Infant Class Legislation applied, just two were upheld.
Further details of the towns under most pressure follow, a more comprehensive picture being available here.
I have now received a school by school breakdown of Reception and Junior school allocations for Kent for September 2016. As last year, these show a sharp contrast between pressure on spaces in urban districts and those in more rural areas. The multitude of local pressures focused on the towns see the biggest problems this year coming in Sevenoaks, no empty spaces, Maidstone, one space, Gravesham, three, and Tunbridge Wells seven, each in just one school. Then come Ashford, Faversham and Tonbridge, each with two per cent of their places empty. Contrast this with Ashford’s rural areas, with 16% of empty spaces, and Shepway with 15%.
The most popular schools vary considerably year on year, 2016 being no exception, the top ten being: Fleetdown Primary, Dartford, and Loose Primary, Maidstone both turning away 53 first choices; Great Chart, Ashford, 41; Holy Trinity and St John’s CofE, Margate, 38; St Joseph’s RC in Northfleet, Sandgate in Folkestone (last year’s most oversubscribed school) and Claremont in Tunbridge Wells all on 37; St Michael’s CofE Infant in Maidstone, 35, St Crispin’s Infant on 34; and Herne Infant on 33. Just five of these schools were in the top ten last year, with Loose more than doubling the number of disappointed families as it recovers from several difficult years.
You will find more information and a fuller District breakdown below, along with a section on Junior Schools at the foot of the article. I will as usual publish a similar article on Medway Primary schools as soon as possible but am still waiting for some data.....
Singlewell Primary in Gravesend has 83% of its 30 reception class places awarded to siblings for September, the highest proportion in Kent, with just five ‘non-siblings’ awarded places on distance grounds, all living within 200 yards of the school. Another 25 children who listed the school in first place on their application form, most with a good expectation of a place in normal years, have been turned down. You will find a list of the other ‘sibling hot-spots’ further down this article.
The school with the smallest cut off distance this year, out of the 185 Kent primaries who use and have applied standard KCC oversubscription rules, at just 92 yards, is St Peter’s CofE Primary in Tunbridge Wells (Outstanding OFSTED. Eleven of the school's 20 places have gone to siblings, higher than the average which saw 43% of places awarded to siblings in oversubscribed schools.
However, Tunbridge Wells also exposes a problem that arises from KCC’s use of temporary enlargements. Three TW schools have suffered from temporary enlargements each of 30 places for several years, followed by a subsequent removal of these places, which inevitably increases the proportion of siblings admitted whilst the number of children offered places on distance grounds shrinking. The most extreme example of this was at Bishops Down last year, when all 30 places went to siblings. Claremont and Pembury were also increased by 30 places each some years ago, but have now scaled back again to 60 places each. Bishops Down with 73% of siblings in 2015, has the second smallest catchment distance in the county with the five children who qualified through nearness all living less than 170 yards from the school. Fourth in the county on distance comes Claremont, with 67% siblings, the remainder all living closer than 181 yards from the school. Pembury, 16th tightest in the county on distance also has two thirds of its intake as siblings, those qualifying on distance all living less than 288 yards from the school. KCC was heavily criticised by the Schools Adjudicator in 2012 for using such temporary enlargements without working through the consequences…..
This newspaper article is an expanded version of a news item elsewhere on this website, looking at the pressure on primary school places in Kent.
There has been much comment in the national media on the growing shortage of primary school places and Kent is no exception. I am now receiving concerned enquiries almost daily from families who have moved into or are planning to move into the area and are finding no suitable school, or in some cases no school at all being offered. Others have been allocated schools they didn’t apply to and are now finding out the reasons for the lack of popularity of some of these. Key pressure areas include: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent; and much of Medway, especially Chatham, Rainham and Rochester.
The problems of what are called In Year transfers are exemplified by an email circulated to primary school headteachers in Gravesham at the beginning of September by the Local Authority desperately seeking places for 23 children in the Borough (9 in Dartford) in Years 1,2 and 3 without a place........
You will find an expanded version of this item in an article I wrote for Kent on Sunday published 21st September 2014
There has been much comment in the national media on the growing shortage of primary school places and Kent is no exception. In May I wrote articles on primary allocations in Kent and Medway, identifying some of the pressure areas as: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge in Kent; and much of Medway, especially Chatham, Rainham and Rochester.
I am now receiving concerned enquiries almost daily from families who have moved into or are planning to move into the area and are finding no suitable school, or in some cases no school at all being offered. Others have been allocated schools they didn’t apply to and are now finding out the problems. These are exemplified by an email circulated to primary school headteachers in Gravesham at the beginning of September by the Local Authority desperately seeking places for 23 children in the Borough (9 in Dartford) in Years 1,2 and 3 without a place.
In 2012 KCC drew up a Commissioning Plan which developed a strategy for creating the 10000 new places needed by 2016. This is already creaking at the seams and the overarching principles set down to guide it appear a distant memory.
I am not sure what, if any, strategy is being followed by Medway Council.....
On primary school allocation day in April, 796 Kent children were allocated to schools they had not applied to, a great shock for many parents as the number is well up on last year’s 661.
This article looks at the popularity of individual schools and problems of capacity around the county this year.
Most popular school in Kent is once again Riverhead Infants in Sevenoaks, turning away 69 first choices, followed by St John’s Catholic Primary in Gravesham (50). Next come: Slade Primary, Tonbridge (47); with West Hill Primary, Dartford, Madginford Park Infants, Maidstone and Priory Infants, Ramsgate all turning away 42 disappointed first choices. Minster in Sheppey (41), St John’s CofE, Tunbridge Wells (38) and St Joseph’s Catholic, Northfleet (36) bring the total up to 9, tenth place being shared by: Brent, Dartford; Palm Bay, Margate; St Crispins’ Community Infant, Westgate on Sea and St James CofE Infants, Tunbridge Wells, all with 35 disappointed first choices.
Biggest problem area is probably Gravesham ....
There has been much media interest this week on the issue of Infant Class numbers. The Labour Party has claimed that a relaxation of legislation by the Coalition has led primary school headteachers to allow infant Class numbers to increase over the statutory maximum of 30 children per class with a single teacher. This is based on an article in the Daily Telegraph. However, in my opinion, far more important is the ambition of both Coalition and Labour parties to reduce Infant class sizes below 30 also discussed in the document, although the resources required to build new classrooms, open new schools and employ additional teachers would be immense and are nowhere on the horizon. In any case, unless something is done to expand infant class provision then the limit of 30 children per class will become impossible to maintain.
In fact, my analysis of the data can find no incidence of headteachers in Kent or Medway choosing to ignore the regulations and, although there are a number of infant classes with numbers over 30, almost all are due to perfectly legitimate actions outside the control of headteachers.
I now have further information on Primary school allocations to individual schools, to expand on my previous article on allocation day, 16th April 2014.
Most popular primary school in Kent is once again Riverhead Infants School in Sevenoaks, turning away 69 first choices, followed by St John’s Catholic Primary in Gravesham (50), reflecting the very difficult pressures in the Borough.
Next come: Slade Primary in Tonbridge (47); West Hill Primary in Dartford, Madginford Park Infants in Maidstone and Priory Infants in Ramsgate all turning away 42 disappointed first choices. Minster in Sheppey (41), St John’s CofE in Tunbridge Wells (38). St Joseph’s Catholic in Northfleet, last year's most oversubscribed school (36) brings the total up to 9, with tenth place being shared by: Brent in Dartford; Palm Bay in Margate; St Crispins’ Community Infant, Westgate on Sea, Thanet and St James CofE VA Infants in Tunbridge Wells, all with 35 disappointed first choices.
You will find a list of last year’s most oversubscribed schools here. Below, you will find a brief analysis of the most pressured districts: Sevenoaks, Gravesham, Dartford, Tunbridge Wells, Thanet, Maidstone and Tonbridge.......
The long drawn out saga of Bishops Down Primary School in Tunbridge Wells continues and appears to be inching towards a permanent solution after KCC tried to force a reduction in its intake numbers until a parent took them to the Schools Adjudicator in 2012, who in August ruled KCC was in the wrong. The Adjudicator further criticised KCC heavily for: failing to provide reliable information on admissions arrangements at schools in Tunbridge Wells from year to year; failing to consult parents on changes; and for using practices and criteria to decide Planned Admission Numbers (PAN) that were not clear, consistent or objective. KCC tried to wriggle out of the instruction to expand permanently over the next year, but during the course of 2013 has now come to the conclusion that the expansion is the right way to go......
I now have details of the popularity of individual primary schools in Kent & Medway for entry in September, headlines described below. This article is about Kent placements; a Medway one will follow as time permits.
Most oversubscribed primary school (above) is an OFSTED Outstanding Catholic school in North Kent
Kent County Council is to be congratulated on taking timely action in expanding a number of primary schools in areas of pressure, as distinct from trying the late inadequate fixes of the last two years. 653 additional places have been added, although this is partially balanced by the removal of 269 places from other schools, in most cases where there are surplus places. As a result, .........