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Tuesday, 15 March 2016 23:10

Kent on Sunday: Oversubscription and vacancies in Kent Secondary schools on allocation for September 2016.

This article looks across Kent to the key oversubscription and vacancy situations in grammar and non-selective schools,  the latter town by town. Pressure points such as Dartford Grammar, 226 first choice applications oversubscribed, one of the most academically successful schools in the county, followed by St George’s CofE Foundation School in Broadstairs, with 161 first choices turned away, second lowest performing school at GCSE in the county.

For further information on the story visit here for grammar schools and here for non-selective schools.

High vacancy rates, threatening a vicious circle of financial losses, which have led to the closure of four schools in the past three years, need to be tackled by Astor College, Castle Community College, Hayesbrook School, High Weald Academy, New Line Learning, and Swadelands School, all with over a third of their provision empty in Year 7.

Kent has seen an extra 704 places put into its secondary schools above the numbers planned for admission this, to meet rising rolls in several areas. As a result, the number of pupils offered their first choice rose by 363, and the number being offered none of their four choices fell by 213 children to just 428, the lowest figure for some years. However, this made little difference to the pressure on popular schools which has never been greater.'''

GRAMMAR SCHOOLS
Dartford Grammar School, the most oversubscribed school in the county,  turned away 226 grammar qualified pupils soaring up from 127 last year, with 81 of its 150 places going to out of county (ooc) boys. Sadly, because the school has recently introduced a cap of 90 on the number of local boys, places going to the highest scorers, many grammar qualified Dartford boys have been rejected from their local school, in spite of protestations when the new system was introduced that this would not happen.

Second most popular grammar school was Tonbridge Grammar with 142 first choices turned away, up from 77 in 2015, followed by Dartford Girls Grammar with 119 up from 95, again sadly with a number of local girls turned away, but letting in 65 ooc girls, having increased its capacity by extra 20 girls.

The other two grammar schools in Dartford were also both well oversubscribed, although both changed their admission rules to give priority to Kent children for most of their places, with Wilmington Grammar Boys turning away 49 first choices and the Girls Grammar 34. The number of out county boys to Wilmington fell sharply from 91 to 32 as a result of the changes, with Wilmington Girls’ fall from 105 to 91.

It was very pleasing to see that The Judd School in Tonbridge, 97 first choices oversubscribed, has also changed its admission rules to give priority to those living in the locality for all but 20 boys. As a result, the number of Kent children to be admitted is rising to 141 out of 155, up from 114 in 2015. However, the ooc pressure on The Skinners School in Tunbridge Wells which has no such rules, increased to compensate up to 45 out of county boys from 26. Still in West Kent, Weald of Kent Grammar was oversubscribed by 55 grammar qualified first choices, even though it has increased its number of places by 55 to 230 girls, in preparation for its expansion into the Sevenoaks Annexe next year. The surge in applications to the two Tonbridge Girls’ grammars has been very much at the expense of Tunbridge Wells Grammar School for Girls.

Other popular grammar schools were: Maidstone Grammar Boys’, 38 first choices oversubscribed, although 11 down on 2015, and Sir Roger Manwood’s at 32, which had four vacancies last year at this time.

The myth that Kent grammar schools are always oversubscribed is definitely not true, with nine of the 32 having vacancies at this time, although many of the empty desks will fill through appeals. The schools with more than 10 spaces are: Maidstone Grammar for Girls; Chatham & Clarendon; Dover Boys’ (following a late increase in admission number of 30); Barton Court; and Borden.

NON-SELECTIVE SCHOOLS
The District sections below describe the picture on allocation day March 1st. Between now and September, many more places will become available after successful grammar school appeals.
 
THANET
Most popular non-selective school was St George’s CofE Foundation School in Broadstairs, with 161 first choices rejected, just up on last year’s 150 when it topped the list for all schools in the county. This is in spite of it being one of the lowest performing schools at GCSE in the county indicating the unpopularity of some of the other choices open to parents. Thanet is one of a number of Kent Districts where there is pressure on places, with just 14 spaces across the six non-selectives at present. However, there is enormous polarisation as families chase the three most popular schools, St George’s, King Ethelbert 72 first choices oversubscribed and Charles Dickens 30. At the other end, the new Royal Harbour Academy, which has absorbed the now closed notorious Marlowe Academy, has been allocated 56 children who were not offered any of their choices out of the 196 who were offered places, and Hartsdown Academy with 43 allocations. Between them these two schools have absorbed nearly a quarter of the Kent children with no school of their choice.
 
GRAVESHAM
Second most popular non-selective school in Kent is St George’s CofE School in Gravesend, with 123 rejected first choices, a giant leap up from last year’s 63 when it was 12th in the popularity list. Gravesham has come under enormous pressure this year, with an additional 76 places being created in three schools, but still leaving just 5 empty spaces in the Borough. Second most popular school here was St John’s Catholic Comprehensive, 40 first choices oversubscribed.
 
MAIDSTONE
Third most popular school is Valley Park, turning away 116 first choices, even though it has expanded yet again, by 30 places to 270. The only other school significantly oversubscribed is St Simon Stock, Catholic at 36, but two schools appear to be in trouble, New Line Learning, with 96 vacancies for its 210 places, not including 12 Local Authority Allocations, and Swadelands in Lenham that has recently been placed in Special Measures by OFSTED, with 74 of its 150 places empty. I hear that Swadelands is to be taken over by Valley Invicta Academy Trust, which is also sponsoring the proposed new six form entry Maidstone School of Science and Technology, although there appear problems here as no news has come out of the proposal for at least six months and surely construction ought to be beginning soon for a 2017 start. This will pump an additional 180 places into Maidstone which could well finish off one of the two vulnerable schools; ironic if it were to be Swadelands!
 
SWALE
The next two most popular schools are in Swale - Fulston Manor and Westlands, oversubscribed by 97 and 91 places respectively, most of the pressure coming from the Isle of Sheppey as aspiring families seek to avoid the struggling Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy which, as a result has 65 vacancies even after 53 children were allocated to it who didn’t apply there. To be fair, this is Kent’s largest secondary school (along with Homewood in Tenterden) with a planned admission number of 390. 
 
ASHFORD
The Wye Free School, smallest intake in Kent at 90 children, opened three years ago against the will of Kent County Council, but is proving very popular with parents, situated as it is in a lovely rural village, drawing off children from the large Ashford schools, and with 51 children oversubscribed. As a result, The North School, still not recovered from its Special Measures and take over by Swale Academy Trust, and the Towers School in neighbouring Kennington, are both suffering, with 42 and 67 vacancies respectively. Meanwhile the good and improving John Wallis Academy is now oversubscribed for the first time having shed a previous reputation. 
 
CANTERBURY
There has been pressure in Canterbury since the closing of Chaucer Technology School two years ago, eased this year by the addition of 70 places in three Canterbury schools. This still leaves no places in any school except struggling Community College Whitstable with 67 vacancies even after 25 Local Authority Allocations of children who did not apply for the school. Canterbury Academy, Herne Bay and St Anselm’s Catholic are the most oversubscribed, with 76, 48 and 46 first choices rejected, respectively.
 
DARTFORD
Dartford has been under pressure since the sudden closure of Oasis Hextable Academy last year, with the three schools of the Leigh Academy Trust being collectively oversubscribed by 253 first choices, Leigh Academy having been the most popular school in Kent for some years. Three years ago it accounted for 235 first choices rejected on its own; but this year, the Academies popularity has waned considerably, with Wilmington Academy looking the most popular, having added 40 places to its previous 200, and still being 27 oversubscribed (but 94 in 2015); Leigh Academy itself turning away 49 first choices.
 
DOVER
This comes at the other end of the scale, with Dover District having a quarter of its places empty and just one school oversubscribed, Sandwich Technology at 77 first choices turned away. Many of those rejected will be families unable to secure schools in Canterbury, or trying to flee unpopular schools in Thanet and Deal. Most vacancies occur at Astor College, 86 and at Castle Community College, Deal - 68, which has had a torrid time since its fall from grace as an Outstanding school just three years ago, straight into Special Measures.
 
SEVENOAKS
As with Wye Free School, the Trinity School, opened at the same time, has proved hugely popular with parents and is about to transfer into new buildings, being 51 first choices oversubscribed for its 120 places. It competes with the much larger Knole Academy, also very popular, being 67 first choices oversubscribed, attracting 35 children from across the County boundary in Bromley.
 
SHEPWAY
The proposed closure of Pent Valley School this summer has been alleviated by 57 new places being opened at Brockhill Park and Folkestone Academy, although 34 children have still applied for and been offered places at Pent Valley, who will now need to be allocated elsewhere. school of choice is Brockhill, with 62 disappointed first choices, Folkestone Academy, until recently one of the most popular schools in Kent, just filling. 
 
TUNBRIDGE WELLS
All three schools in the town remain oversubscribed, in spite of a collective injection of 106 additional places, St Gregory’s turning away 34 first choices. 47 of Bennett’s places go to children from East Sussex. The three rural schools in the District all have vacancies, the high performing High Weald still having half its 150 places empty, despite having reduced from 180 in 2015.
 
OTHER SCHOOLS
Holmesdale Community College in Snodland is as usual the school with the largest ooc contingent, attracting 41 children from Medway, but still has 47 empty spaces. 

Two of Kent’s highest performing schools at GCSE, Hayesbrook and High Weald Academy in Cranbrook, are far less successful at attracting students, with 84 and 75 vacancies respectively, both with an Admission number of 150.

OUT OF COUNTY
As always, there was much media publicity for the 803 out of county children taking up places in Kent schools, many of which are identified above. There is never notice of the 460 going out of Kent to other Local Authorities. These include 165 to grammar schools in Medway, Bexley and Bromley, and 78 to the four large neighbouring comprehensive schools in East Sussex.


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  • Medway Council Scraps Testing for Late Applications to Grammar Schools

    Some children of families who are amongst the many re-locating to Medway,  and local children who are late developers, may be denied  grammar school places this year as there is no facility to sit the Medway Test late, contrary to previous practice.  This is because the Council quietly changed its selection procedures last year so that only children who are registered at the correct time can ever sit the Medway Test, which takes place in September.

    Medway

    Late applicants are therefore effectively barred from being considered for Medway grammar school places which require a Medway Test outcome for admission (the two Chatham grammars have a secondary route via the Kent Test). Most grammar schools have not made arrangements to put an alternative form of testing in place for admission this September, the combination being contrary to Medway's own co-ordinated scheme for secondary admissions.    

     The consequences of this decision by Medway Council are wide ranging and may well spell the end of the Medway Test as an objective standard for grammar school entry in Medway, with each grammar school defining the standard and setting its own test for entry, as explored further below.  

    Also, the Council has also been acting unlawfully for years in putting conditions on late admissions to other Medway schools, although these appear to have been withdrawn from 2020/21.

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    Written on Sunday, 17 March 2019 20:33 Be the first to comment! Read 75 times
  • Kent Secondary School Allocations for September 2019: Initial Information and Advice
    The initial data for applicants for Kent secondary schools shows that 79.1% of  those from Kent were  offered their first choice. This is the lowest percentage for at least nine years. 837 children been given none of their four choices, at 4.7% of the total, again the highest proportion for at least nine years, up on last year’s 765 and up by 75% over the 2016 proportion of 2.7%. The proportion of children being offered one of their top two preferences at 90.3% is down on 90.7% in 2018, and again lowest for nine years. 

    17,959 Kent children applied for places in Kent secondary schools, 517 more than in 2018, with 79.1% of them being offered their first choice. This is the lowest percentage for at least nine years, a further 0.6% down on last year. 837 children been given none of their four choices, at 4.7% of the total, again the highest proportion for at least nine years, up on last year’s 765. I know that a number of additional school places have been created at pinch points across the county, but I anticipate hearing of some very difficult situations for some of the children with no school of their choice.

    In spite of the inexorable increase in out of county applications to Kent schools, up 225 to 3,514, exactly the same number, 818, were offered places, as in 2018. As always this  will have been partially balanced by around 500 going to schools outside Kent.

    You will find more information, including a look at some of the pressure points as they become apparent, below. These include North West Kent both selective and non-selective, and non-selective Swale, Thanet and Tunbridge Wells.  You will also find required scores for super-selective schools (all information on both situations welcomed) together with the tables of outcomes

    There is 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. 

    There is also a link to the limited telephone advisory service I now offer. 

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    Written on Friday, 01 March 2019 06:05 3 comments Read 2437 times
  • Meopham School Outstanding Ofsted - And then there is Holmesdale

     Swale Academies Trust (SAT) has secured a second Ofsted Outstanding school, after Meopham was found Outstanding in January (published earlier this week). This makes KCC’s decision to block SAT from taking over the failed Holmesdale School for most of 2018 look even more shocking as the school blundered from bad to worse under its control during the year. 

    Meopham School had suffered from poor leadership for as long as I can remember, culminating in 2012 when it was placed in Special Measures. An ‘Anywhere but Meopham’ cry was regularly made to me by parents seeking advice on how to avoid the school. SAT took it over the following year. It has rapidly improved ever since, with a ‘Good’ Ofsted Report just two years later, followed by a Short Inspection last year. Meopham has been delivering excellent GCSE results for its pupils for the past three years, being the second and third best performing non-selective school in the county at Progress 8 and in the top seven for Attainment 8 in each year. Rightly it has now seen last year’s Short Inspection converted to Outstanding. Not surprisingly, it has become heavily oversubscribed with 224 first choices for its 140 places for September. A new Chair of Governors was appointed last September, Diana Choulerton, an Education Consultant who until recently was one of Her Majesty's Inspectors. Swale Academies Trust doesn't take chances!

    By contrast, after Holmesdale School was placed in Special Measures a year ago, the school and its pupils were disgracefully hung out to dry by Kent County Council. KCC refused to hand the management of the school over to SAT even though it had been selected as the Sponsoring School when Holmesdale was served with an Academy Order and left it devoid of proper support until grudgingly yielding it to SAT at the end of November.

    As well as further details below, I also look at the performance of Swale Academies Trust in an attempt to see why KCC was so strongly opposed to them  being involved with Holmesdale School. 

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    Written on Thursday, 21 February 2019 18:45 3 comments Read 494 times
  • Medway Secondary School Allocations for September 2019: Initial Information and Advice

    The 2019 Medway Council Press Statement on secondary school allocation appears to cover up a large fall in the proportion of pupils offered a place at one of their preferred schools. This is accompanied by another fall in the proportion of children being offered their first or second choice.

    All we are allowed to learn is that all 3300 Medway children who applied for secondary school places received offers, that 89% of them received a first or second choice, with over 90% receiving one of their preferences, and that 736 children from outside Medway were considered for places.

    For 2018 entry, the equivalent statement recorded that over 95.5% (actually 95.6%) of Medway children received a preference, so this appears to be a sharp and worrying fall, with nearly one in ten Medway families being allocated to a school they did not choose.

    Medway

    Once again, the council continues its attempts to hide the facts from local residents (not serving you), but the Portfolio Holder for Children’s Services is ‘very pleased that many have been allocated a place at one of their preferred schools’. Unfortunately, too many have not! He continues: ‘it a testament to the team’s hard work that the majority of families receive offers at one of their preferred schools (an ‘is’ would have been helpful from the Council’s education leader), both statements suggesting the great disappointment that these figures imply. This follows on from the scandal of the Medway Review I highlighted recently.

    There is initial advice at the foot of this 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. There is also a link to the limited telephone advisory service I now offer.
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    Written on Saturday, 02 March 2019 15:39 Be the first to comment! Read 625 times
  • Medway Test Analysis for 2019 Admission: Review fails Medway children again

    The problems with the Medway grammar school selection process just keep recurring, with the Medway Review procedure proving yet again to be not fit for purpose. You will find an analysis of outcomes below. 

    The headline is once again the failure of the Review procedure, with  the Council announcing as always that up to 2% of the cohort of Medway children would be successful at Review, in addition to the 23% who passed the Medway Test directly. In the event, just four children from 159 hopeful Medway families that went to Review were successful for 2019 admission, just 0.12% of the cohort. What a farce, being short of the target by 63 children, but a very sad one for all those who falsely thought they were in with a chance. Not one of the 43 candidates from local private schools or outside of Medway was successful at Review.  

    It is also an indictment of the work of Medway Primary schools according to the Review Panels which are made up of local secondary headteachers, who found work submitted by local primary schools to be so poor that almost no further children were found worthy of a grammar school place through the process from the 159 considered. 

    Sadly, it gets even worse for those families. The School Admission Code of Practice rules that children who are unsuccessful at a Review process cannot have an appeal upheld unless there has been unfairness in the process (rarely proven). There are a few exceptions as explained below, but for the majority of the 155 families unsuccessful at Review, there is now no chance of winning an Appeal.

    The two areas of bias in the Medway Test remain: older pupils do much better than those born towards the end of the school year; and girls do better than boys.

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    Written on Monday, 04 February 2019 12:11 2 comments Read 385 times
  • Maidstone Grammar School Ofsted: Down from Outstanding

    Update (11/3) Oakwood Park Grammar has also had a recent Inspection and seen its Outstanding lost to Good probably because of disappointing GCSE results, although the Report acknowledges the great improvement for 2018, as reported below, in spite of its two Outstanding categories, compared with the MGS one. I understand that a third Kent school has also lost its Outstanding status, although not yet published., 

    Maidstone Grammar School (MGS), one of Kent’s flagship selective schools, has lost its Outstanding Ofsted status following its recent Inspection with Report published yesterday. The Inspection was presumably triggered after 'legitimate concerns' (according to Ofsted below) had been expressed about the decline in its academic performance.

    MGS3

    The headlines of the Report, published in January, refer to disappointing GCSE results in 2017. However, they choose not  to mention that those for 2018 were  considerably worse. These saw the school delivering the fourth lowest Progress 8 score of any of the 38 Kent and Medway grammar schools, the government’s preferred measure of performance. It was eighth lowest for Attainment 8. The results come from a school that selected most of its pupils by setting a high pass score in the Kent Test, and yet still performed worse on both d than the other local grammar, Oakwood Park which recruits a significant number of pupils from appeal.  You will find an article on performance of  Kent grammar schools here including details of MGS relative performance, and background to Maidstone Grammar data here.

    This Report also comes with a mystery, as explained below. 

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    Written on Tuesday, 12 February 2019 06:56 8 comments Read 1255 times