Supporting Families
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

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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  • Complete Retirement from Advisory Service

    I regret to confirm that I have retired completely from my individual advisory service for Kent and Medway families after sixteen years. I continue to be asked if I can make an exception by previous clients, professionals, friends and others across Kent and Medway and further afield, but I am afraid my decision is final. 

    Over that time I have supported over a thousand clients on a professional basis in various ways, who are seeking individual advice and support on school admissions and appeals, along with Special Education Needs, school exclusions, complaints and other matters. In addition, I have provided a large number of free services of the same nature for families without the resources to engage me on a paid basis.   

    I will continue to run the nationally unique website, currently with over a thousand pages of advice and information for Kent and Medway families, along with news and comment on matters of relevant concern and interest,as I believe it meets an important need. As you can imagine, this takes a vast amount of time to keep up to date, my most recent offering being a unique analysis of the recent Kent Test.  I am currently preparing for the what will still be the busiest time of the year, publishing outcomes and analysis of the secondary transfer decisions due out on 1st March. 

    The most time consuming section of the website is the Individual Schools Section, including a profile of each individual secondary school in Kent and Medway, along with a variety of data which is up to date at the time of writing. I expect to post details here of individual secondary school allocations for September 2020, around the middle of March. The Website Panel on the right hand side of this article will lead you to a host of information and advice articles on matters such as school admissions, grammar school admissions, school appeals, Special Education (needs considerable re-writing and updating), academies and academy groups, etc. 

    Please continue to assist by highlighting areas where information needs updating, and by feeding me information about matters of concern.

    Apart from several advertisements that subsidise the cost of running the website, it produces no other income. Can I therefore encourage you to make a small donation of £15 towards the running costs, payable here.  Also, feel free to contact me if you would like to advertise your school, tutoring or other educational service on a site that has some 200,000 visitors annually, with presumably the overwhelming majority having an interest in Kent and Medway education matters on every one of those 1,000 pages. The cost is surprisingly low. 

    Written on Thursday, 27 February 2020 04:58 Be the first to comment!
  • Kent Test for Entry in September 2020: Further Analysis

    You will find the parallel Medway Test article here

    This article follows on from my previous: Kent Test 2019; Initial Results and Comment, published in October. The main change since last year is that that the marks required for a pass in the Test have been raised, requiring candidates to score 110 marks on each of the three sections - English, mathematics, and reasoning – along with an aggregate score across the three sections of at least 330 . Please note that the change remains as always to simply aim for 21% of the age cohort in Kent schools to be successful. In no way does it suggest the Test was more difficult so any attempt to argue this at an appeal for a grammar school place will be unsuccessful. 

    Headlines are:
    • The proportion of passes for Kent school children has risen from 25.7% to 26.6%, made up of 20.1% automatic passes with a further 6.5% Head Teacher Assessment (almost a quarter of the total).
    • Boys are well ahead on automatic test passes for the first time since the Test was changed in 2014, at 21.3% passes for boys to 18.85 for girls, and also in total.
    • Girls are well ahead in Head Teacher Assessments, (HTA)s, with 7.3% of all girls being found selective by this route, as against 5.8% of boys.
    • Unsurprisingly, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks have the highest proportion of passes, followed this year by Dartford and then Canterbury.   
    • As in previous years, the highest proportion of HTA success is in Canterbury, with 10% of the cohort for both boys and girls bring found selective, along with girls in Swale.  but going  on last year’s pattern, only around 15% of whom will apply and be offered places in Kent grammars.
    • For the first time in many years there is a fall in the number of out of county Children taking the Kent Test, and a parallel fall of 8.5% in the number being found selective, to 2,768.:

     For more detail on each of these items, see below. 

    Written on Monday, 24 February 2020 07:05 Be the first to comment!
  • Selective School Expansion Fund: Kent Decisions

    Government has announced the six grammar schools offered £14.3 million funding from the second round of the Government Grammar School Expansion  Fund, out of the 25 that applied. None of the eight Kent and two Medway grammar schools which applied were successful. The successful schools were:  King Edward VI Handsworth School, Birmingham; Ribston Hall High School, Gloucestershire; Haberdashers’ Adams and Newport Girls’ High School Academy, both Telford and Wrekin; Altrincham Grammar School for Girls; and Stretford Grammar School, both in Trafford. 

    The Kent grammar schools which applied were: Barton Court, Canterbury and Queen Elizabeth's, Faversham, both bidding for a new Annexe in Herne Bay/Whitstable; Cranbrook; Highsted, Sittingbourne; Highworth, Ashford; Skinners, Tunbridge Wells; and Wilmington Boys and Wilmington Girls, jointly, budding for a new Sixth Form complex. Also Chatham (previously called Chatham Grammar School for Girls) and Fort Pitt Grammar Schools in Medway.

    Written on Saturday, 15 February 2020 23:22 Be the first to comment!
  • Annual School Report for Turner Schools: Serious Weaknesses

    The Turner Schools Annual Report to Companies House, posted on the final due date, 31st January 2020 suggesting some difficulties in completion, continues the saga of well rewarded underperformance. CEO Dr Jo Saxton whose recent main focus has been on Curriculum across the four Turner Schools, was paid a salary of £149,783, conveniently just below the £150,000 level at which government looks askance. The salary is in return for running a small, struggling Academy Trust and is highest of the Kent Trusts I have found so far, excepting four which are large and successful. The Report works hard, as is usual for Turner Schools, on blaming its problems at Folkestone Academy on legacy issues despite the evidence that standards have only declined since it took over. Amongst other own goals: it also manages to excuse the failure of the two Turner primary schools to attract pupils, including Morehall with the highest vacancy rate in Kent; has run up a loan repayable to government of £1.3 million; and has two of its four schools running at a sizeable deficit.

    Turner Schools Logo

    In other news, Government has at last released a Free School Impact Assessment for Turner Free School carried out in 2018, looking at the likely effects its opening would have on neighbouring schools. The good news (??) according to the DfE was that there would be a Minimal Effect on Folkestone Academy in terms of recruitment, but a Moderate Effect on Astor College in Dover. For the Sixth Form there would be Moderate Effects felt by Canterbury College, East Kent College (which have now merged) and Hilderstone College. How much more wrong could government be! See below.

    Written on Thursday, 13 February 2020 17:48 1 comment
  • Catholic Church Overturns Catholic Trust Ban on Kent Test in school premises.
    This article contains copies of redacted sections of Meeting Minutes which I have been sent.
    Back in November I reported that Catholic primary academies which were members of the Kent Catholic School Partnership, an Academy Trust, had been sent a formal letter from the Trust. This required them to follow a Diocesan policy which forbade them from hosting the Kent Test for their pupils on their own premises, on pain of possible disciplinary proceedings against headteachers. The letter had been sent at the request of the Archbishop of Southwark. It has since been retracted in a Position Statement from the Archbishop, after the policy proved extremely unpopular with some parents and schools, with the whole principle behind the 'policy' rejected.  
    Kent Catholic Schools Partnership
    The reversal of 'policy' began after the Directors of the Trust appear to have had an almighty row at a Board Meeting in December over the letter, and so it was agreed to pause implementation of the decision. At the meeting, the Director of Education for the Education Commission of the Diocese (ECD) reported that that ‘the tone of response which the Trust had received as a result (of the decision) may be nothing to that which he had also received’.

    Last week, the ECD set out one of the clearest and best argued policy statements I have seen from an education body for years. This scrapped the previous requirement on the grounds that the ban was inoperable, discriminatory and not supported Canonically from the Bishops’ Conference, and so could not therefore be Diocesan policy. 

    Written on Thursday, 13 February 2020 11:04 3 comments
  • Kent Final GCSE Outcomes 2019

    Final GCSE Results for Kent published last week confirm the provisional results released in November. This article is a minor revision of the November original as I have found very few variations in outcome. The results show that Kent schools were below the National Average of -0.03 in the governments key measure Progress 8 at -0.11. However, they were ahead in Attainment 8 at 47.2 against the national figure of 46.6, as explained below. 

    Girls’ grammar schools make a clean sweep the top seven places in the Progress 8 table, the government’s key measure of performance. Highworth shows the greatest consistency being second for the past two years.

    highworth Grammar      Bennett Memorial 3


    Bennett continues to dominate both non-selective tables, ahead of 28 grammar schools in Progress 8, followed as usual by St Simon Stock, and in the past three years Meopham. The only new non-selective school arriving in the list of best performers is Cornwallis Academy which continues to struggle to attract applications.  Biggest turnaround is by Holmesdale (see below).

    Borden Grammar is by some way the lowest performing grammar school at Progress 8, being Below Average, and also at the foot of the Attainment 8 table. Worryingly, there are 20 non-selective schools Well Below Average and below the government’s Floor Level of -0.50, up from 15 in 2018. At the foot of both tables comes Hartsdown Academy, lowest performing Attainment 8 and fourth lowest school at Progress 8 in the country. The 20 schools below Floor Level include many regularly low performers, but also now: Thamesview; Archbishops; Fulston Manor; Hayesbrook; Hugh Christie; and St Augustines. 

    Who could not have got it more wrong when he said on his school website: 'We are celebrating our best ever year for results at GCSE in Year 11''? Answer below. 

    You will find performance tables and further information and analysis below.

    Written on Friday, 07 February 2020 17:47 2 comments