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Thursday, 29 March 2018 06:02

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


Tunbridge Wells
A disaster area, in spite of the two faith schools adding 90 temporary places to ease the pressure. A proposed new Free School has fallen through after no academy trust came forward to sponsor it, leaving no prospect of significant new permanent provision for several years.

32 children from the south of the town have been sent to High Weald Academy in Cranbrook, twenty miles away. Up to 57 boys to the north have been allocated Hayesbrook in Tonbridge. A further 82 children, who will be nearly all from Tonbridge Wells District have found places at: Beacon Academy, Crowborough, 31 children; Uplands Community College, Wadhurst (probably with some from the Cranbrook area of the District) 51 children; and some of the 12 to Robertsbridge Community College. Some of these will be travelling by choice to full comprehensive schools.

Update: Theory without evidence - because Hayesbrook is in the south of Tonbridge, it is the nearest overspill secular school for TW boys from whichever part of town who fail to get into SKA. Girls can't get into the partner Hillview as it is oversubscribed. That leaves predominantly girls bound for High Weald. Can any one advise if this sounds correct?

Bennett Memorial has kept last year’s temporary increase of 60 pupils, to offer 270 places again, turning away 49 first choices, almost the same as last year. St Gregory’s Catholic has made a further temporary increase from the 180 PAN of 2017, upped to 210 that year, to 240 for 2018. It has still overtaken Bennett in terms of popularity, with a sharp increase in oversubscription to 58. Both of these two schools give priority for all their places to families following religious practices taking little account of location, a situation unique in Kent with just one other non-selective school in the town. The problem is increased further by the two schools admitting 37 East Sussex pupils between them at the expense of local children.

This places enormous pressure on the only secular school, Skinners Kent Academy, which has retained its intake at 180, in spite of a temporary increase to 210 in 2016. This Ofsted Outstanding school has increased its popularity even further, turning 87 first choices away with no other local non-faith non-selective school to go to. Some families will be looking to school appeals to secure a place. The 2017 outcomes are as follows:

Tunbridge Wells N/S Appeals 2017
Bennett Memorial 37 1
St Gregory's 11 7
Skinners Kent Academy 28 8

 This can only be a rough guide to outcomes in 2018 as circumstances at each school can change and the number of applications for each school has risen considerably.  

Some of the Tunbridge Wells families may have put Mascall’s School in Paddock Wood as a back up, with 45 of its 240 places going to second or third preference, but still 27 first choices did not get offered places, possibly from the Cranbrook/Weald area, further away.

Certainly, High Weald Academy is seen as a school of last resort by many, and I have written about it elsewhere. The 32 families whose children have been placed there mainly because of the shortage of secular places in Tunbridge Wells, and now face a round journey of some 30 miles daily, cannot be happy. Some places will be filled by successful appellants to grammar schools.

The bottom line is that unless additional permanent secular places are provided as a matter of urgency, there is inevitably a crisis of provision I Tunbridge Wells. If in doubt, it is wise to consult the KCC Schools Commissioning Plan, where one will find on page 159/160, the following:

There is significant pressure for Year 7 places across the Borough that rises from a forecast deficit of 121 places in 2018-19 to a peak of 245 in 2022-23. There is particular pressure in the urban areas, with approximately 8FE deficit of places forecast in central Tunbridge Wells for the September 2018 intake, based on published admissions numbers. The forecast demand indicated in the table above is skewed by surplus capacity in Cranbrook, which is outside of the historical travel to learn distance for children resident in Tunbridge Wells Town. Consequently the pressure on places in Tunbridge Wells Town will be approximately 3 FE greater than indicated in the table. It was previously anticipated that the majority of the central Tunbridge Wells demand would be met by a new 6FE free school from 2018/19. The Education and Skills Funding Agency (ESFA) had agreed to undertake purchase of the identified site in conjunction with TWBC and KCC. No Wave 12 application was submitted to sponsor the free school. This alongside the ESFA’s change in policy around speculative land purchases, has meant that a new school could not be delivered before 2020 at the earliest, necessitating the expansion of existing schools for 2018-19 and 2019-20.

In order to address the demand for Year 7 places we are working with existing Secondary schools in the Tunbridge Wells urban areas to offer 190 temporary Year 7 places in 2018-19, leading to 4.3FE permanent provision and 120 temporary places for 2019-20. During the 2017-18 year we will finalise proposals to establish a further 6FE of provision from 2020-21.

Tunbridge Wells Conclusion
Just three forms of the proposed permanent provision in 2019 is for non-selective places all in faith schools, replicating the temporary places for 2018. The Plan is silent on where the additional 120 temporary places might be, and also on how to magic a further 6FE from 2020—21. In other words, KCC does not know either where the places are coming from or where they are going to place non-selective children who don’t qualify for faith schools, an issue that is not even mentioned!!

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Last modified on Thursday, 03 October 2019 19:53


  • 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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