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Thursday, 29 March 2018 06:02

Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Non-Selective Schools on Allocation for 2018


Four of the five schools oversubscribed, with Fulston Manor third most popular school in Kent with its 157 first choices turned away. Westlands had 92 first choices rejected.

Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy not only has 99 of its 390 places empty, but 70 of its offers are to LAAs. Most of these will be Isle of Sheppey families desperate to avoid the school who do not include it in their applications, but finish up being allocated as the other Swale schools are full. At 43%, third highest percentage of vacancies in Kent before LAAs added in, behind the two other unpopular Tough Love Academies. Second highest percentage of children leaving for Home Education in County in 2016-17, at 3.3%, the school reportedly suggesting this to complainants as a solution. Something needs to be done about the mismanagement of this school, but no one seems to care.

I have been asked about the chances of appeal from Isle of Sheppey to one of the mainstream schools. Figures for Fulston and Westlands in chart on Page 1. Sittingbourne Community College and Abbey School, Faversham (easy ride on train) are a few places oversubscribed, but neither appears to have needed appeals in 2017.  Well worth a try with a late application if necessary, if you can't face OISA. Some families are desperate enough to avoid the  school they Home Educate! This should not be happening. Girls might like to try Rainham School for Girls in Medway.

No vacancies at present in any of the six school, in one of the two most difficult districts in Kent (the other is Tunbridge Wells). The problems have been exacerbated after no suitable sponsors could be found for a proposed new six form entry Free School. The root of the problem is that two schools, Hartsdown School and Royal Harbour Academy, are intensely unpopular with many local families, having all 135 LAAs between them which is 12% of the total applications to Thanet schools, and a higher total than any other Kent District. Many families plan their applications accordingly, with high levels of disappointment. This is in spite of Ursuline College admitting an extra 60 pupils, taking its intake up to 180, but other schools have turned down requests from KCC to enlarge in previous years. There is little prospect of respite for some years, with KCC having a fall back plan of transporting overspill to the site of the disused Walmer Science School.

St George’s CofE, with 196 first choices turned away is the most oversubscribed school in Kent, King Ethelbert fourth with 139. The scale of the problem is exemplified by Charles Dickens, in Special Measures, until it became an academy last year, sponsored by Barton Court Grammar School, which cancelled the Ofsted failure. Even with this background it is still 64 first choices oversubscribed, as some families avoid the most popular schools in a bid to maximise their chances at one of the two problem schools.

Hartsdown Academy, one of my three Tough Love Academies almost appears to seek controversial headlines, my most recent article covering one of these. 24 children from the school left for Home Education in 2016-17, third highest percentage of any school in the county. For lack of any alternatives, both these schools.

Many non-selective schools lose numbers before September; in the case of Thanet the four poplar ones each took on extra pupils through appeals. Hartsdown was 83% full, Royal Harbour Academy 91%, so limited space there and these will soon fill with incomers to the District.

Tonbridge and Malling
A mixed picture with four schools oversubscribed, but Holmesdale, now the only Kent secondary school in Special Measures with 52 vacancies, even after 22 LAAs, Hayesbrook with 57 LAAs, and Aylesford with 46 LAAs.

Hadlow Rural Community School offers a land based curriculum, and is the most oversubscribed for its 75 places, turning away 66 first choices Between them, the other three oversubscribed schools have added 53 places. Here the interesting school is Malling (see the Holmesdale reference) 49 vacancies just four years ago, then a no no for the nearby Kings Hill development, but now one of the most oversubscribed schools in Kent, rejecting 57 first choices.

Wrotham deserves a mention, a school that has to do well as it depends on drawing pupils in from neighbouring towns, with no large community of its own. The fact it is 24 first choices oversubscribed speaks for itself! Has now taken over struggling Aylesford. Perhaps Holmesdale will be next!

The puzzle is Hayesbrook, 6th highest vacancy rate in Kent at 38% before its 57 LAAs nearly fill it up. Where do these LAAs come from, the only other Tonbridge school admitting boys, Hugh Christie, having two vacancies so not there. Hadlow, a few miles out of town is one possibility but if so, many unsuccessful applicants have chosen no Tonbridge school. The only solution I can see is that these are overspill from the Tunbridge Wells debacle, see below, living to the north of the town who presumably won’t be happy at this solution to their problems. Hillview, the Tonbridge girls school, was 13 places oversubscribed.

Last modified on Thursday, 03 October 2019 19:53


  • Comment Link Friday, 06 April 2018 21:11 posted by Mrs D

    Peter, I have a few family members whose children have been given a place at Oasis Academy, they didn't actually apply for the Academy and unfortunately they are not in a position to Home Educate as I and many families on the Island are doing, do you think appealing will realistically be successful? PETER: I have amplified the section on Swale (Page 4) in this article to cover this issue.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 04 April 2018 23:03 posted by Geraldine

    Hello Peter - we are one of the families who have bought a new house at Minster.Excellent value we thought but soon discovered the drawback by reputation - Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy. Like many others we did not apply for it for our eldest son, but put down four houses on the mainland, only to be refused all of them and offered OIOSA after all. What are our chances of winning a place anywhere on appeal? PETER: Go on every waiting list. Fulston very difficult, SCC and Abbey (I know its a long way, but you would not be the only one, and the train journey is well worth the sacrifice) are your best chances at appeal. Westlands is a possibility.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 04 April 2018 04:50 posted by Proud Wrotham parent

    Why no mention of Wrotham, although I know you are a fan, having recommended the school to us?
    PETER: I am afraid it did not fit in with my narrative, although having now had several nudges it is in there! It is a school that HAS to do well, with no large natural base to draw on depending on reputation to attract pupils from neighbouring areas. Has lost Meopham and Malling now both very popular, but is still 24 oversubscribed which speaks for itself.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 03 April 2018 19:56 posted by Did not apply for Hayesbrook!

    TW. Its terrible and thanks for highlighting the scandal. I don;t think anyone would have known what is going on otherwise. We are one of those with none of the three schools offered, having no faith background and living outside the SKA catchment towards the north of town. We have been offered Hayesbrook, a boys' school in Tonbridge, along according to you with another 56 boys who didn't want to go there. Hardly a recommendation, especially as our gentle son does not want an all boys school. What can we do? PETER: I just wish I knew. Go and look at Hayesbrook, even if it is in the next town. KCC is responsible for getting your son there. I have heard from several Hayesbrook parents that they like it with its 'small school' pastoral approach, but strong discipline, and high academic standards. No one will still tell me why it is so unpopular, which may be a good sign. Obviously appeal to SKA and go on the waiting list, but don't hold your breath. You could try looking at the Sussex schools if you can get your son there. Little consolation, but at least you are better off than those offered High Weald! Sorry.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 03 April 2018 16:38 posted by Despairing Maidstone parent

    What is actually wrong with the Duke of York's? Living in Maidstone without a good school to go to, could we apply there on a Monday to Friday boarding basis? PETER: I am afraid I am not able to comment whilst legal proceedings continue, only to report on factual matters. The school governors turn down a lot of applicants from non-military families as 'not suitable for boarding', so I suspect wishing for Monday to Friday boarding only may qualify as one of these. I quite understand your unhappiness about the Maidstone situation brought about by the lack of approval of the new school, but I suggest there remain serious questions to be answered here before you go ahead with this one.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 03 April 2018 13:57 posted by Very angry and let down TW parent

    We are amongst the many TW families whose daughter has been sent to High Weald. It is impossible to get her there, and having visited the school are not prepared to try. We cannot afford private like some others who have been let down. What can we do. PETER: My heart goes out to you. You have seen my analysis! There will be some movement as other TW families choose to go private creating spaces. This is not KCCs fault, but they have the responsibility to get your daughter to school. So very sorry I cannot be more optimistic.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 03 April 2018 13:46 posted by Chris W

    Goodwin Academy - We thought the school's troubles were over having endured the bad years and now with a great head and staff. However SchoolsCompany appear to have ruined it again, with staff cuts damaging the recovery. Will anyone be held to account for the missing money. PETER: Sad to say, I very much doubt it. Academies appear to be open house for profiteers. If the Regional Schools Commissioner can find someone new to take the school on., there is all the potential and goodwill to make it a success.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 03 April 2018 10:12 posted by Rachael

    you appear to have served up a hornet's nest with Hayesbrook on social media, where you are accused of all sorts of criticism of the quality of education at Hayesbrook. I can find none at all in either of your articles, just asking the fair question why so many local families don't want their sons to go there, and why so many remove them once they are at the school. As a parent of a Year Six son offered a place at the school, I need to know the answer to the 'puzzle' you have set. PETER: So do I, and so must the leaders of the school. Can anyone out there help, rather than just telling us about the high GCSE pass rate (given and congratulated on) and the small classes and excellent pastoral care (especially in Year 8 with its 61 boys rattling round in premises designed for 150 boys, and presumably generous staffing as a result). Clearly neither is sufficient attraction to lure boys in.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 03 April 2018 09:50 posted by Andrew Baxter

    What an amazing website, packed with information. Whilst my interest is TW, I can see so much about other parts of the county that show our problems are the worst. If you live in the north of the town, you stand no chance of a place if you are not religious. PETER: You may well be right. I do not know why there is no outcry about this!

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