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Sunday, 13 May 2018 19:06

Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Primary Schools, 2018


There has been a fall in pupil numbers taking up places in Kent Primary Reception Classes for the second year. There were also 49 additional permanent and temporary places created in the last year (after six schools had temporary classes removed). These two factors have produced an improvement in the proportion of families being offered schools of their choice as reported in my previous article on the initial data. The total number of children offered places in Kent reception classes on allocation in April is 17274, down by 121 on 2017’s 17395, and an even larger large fall from the 18066 of 2016.

A number of schools have kept temporary increases in place for several years, so there can be confusion about changes in the number of places available since allocation in 2017. Although there are 539 new places since the official 2017 Planned Admission Number (PAN), the great majority of these have been in place for one or more years. 286 of the additional places have not been taken up. The actual increase includes 60 completely new places for the new Bishop Chavasse school in Tonbridge. As a result, there are vacancies in every District, including the urban areas. The tightest parts are Dartford, with just 3% vacancies and urban Maidstone and Sevenoaks with 4%, there also being a local issue in Northfleet. Comparison with my 2017 oversubscription and vacancy article shows the easing of numbers across the board.

Brent Outstanding 1

There is still no let-up in numbers chasing the most heavily oversubscribed schools, headed this year by Brent Primary in Dartford, turning away 73 first choices, followed by East Borough in Maidstone with 52 and Herne CofE Infant School with 43. Just two schools, Great Chart, Ashford and Cecil Road, Gravesham, have featured in the ten most oversubscribed schools in each of the last three years. The changes in popularity often reflect events relating to the schools such as Ofsted Reports and Key Stage 2 outcomes.

East Borough Primary             Herne Infant

The problem comes at the other end, with 22 schools having more than half their places empty, up from 18 in 2017, with six in both years, all of which will now be under financial pressure.

I look at the issues in more detail below, including a survey of each separate District. You will find advice on what to do if you do not have the school or your choice here, and the reality of primary school appeals here

This annual report is the longest article I write in the year and will become one of the most visited in time. Please let me know of any errors or areas that need expansion. You will find Ofsted outcomes for all schools in the Individual Schools section, and a survey of 2017-18 outcomes here. There is a survey of Key Stage 2 results for 2016-17 here

KCC has a target of securing 5% to 10% vacancies in each District, but the norm is that this often hides a sharp distinction between urban and rural areas, with many towns coming under more pressure. I separate these below, the table showing the only rural area with fewer than 10% vacancies is the countryside hinterland of Canterbury.

District Vacancies
Dartford West  3%
Sevenoaks Urban 3%
Maidstone Urban 4% 
Canterbury Country 5%
Ashford Urban 7% 
Gravesham Urban  7% 
Tunbridge Wells   8% 
Folkestone   9% 

Whilst the pattern of the most popular schools changes each year, demand remains high, and it is lower down where there are more satisfied families. Brent Primary in Dartford has shot to the top of the list after its ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted in January 2017, up from ‘Requires Improvement’, with Newington rising for the same reason. Herne Infants’ leap in popularity, is less explicable especially as it is the only oversubscribed school across Whitstable and Herne Bay. Herne and St James also both have ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted Reports, but now well out of date in 2010 and 2011 respectively. There is no doubt there is a high correlation between Ofsted category and parental preference, underlining the importance of a strong Ofsted assessment to a school. 

School District
First Choices
Brent Primary

East Borough Primary

60 52
Herne CofE Infant Canterbury 90 43
Great Chart Primary
Ashford 60
40 40 
Loose Primary Maidstone  90
Newington Primary Ramsgate 90 35
Cecil Road Primary Gravesham
St James' CofE VA Infant
Tunbridge Wells 90 32 11
St Michael's CofE Infant Maidstone 40 32 25 
Riverhead Infant Sevenoaks 90 29
Local Authority Allocations
With the fall in numbers, it is no surprise that the number of children with no school of their choice, and having to be allocated one by KCC is the lowest for years. Called Local Authority Allocations (LAAs), the figure for 2018 entry is just 390, or just two out of every hundred. Whilst many of these are sad stories some of whom will be resolved as some children drop out and waiting lists gather up other children, the genuine figure will be significantly lower. This is because, especially in the West of the county, some families have their eyes on particular popular schools and go private if unsuccessful. Some will follow that route anyway. Other families will have made an unrealistic set of choices and now need to settle for a less popular school.

The Districts surveyed are:

Page 2 - AshfordCanterbury (including Whitstable and Herne Bay); CranbrookDartford

Page 3 – Dover, Deal & SandwichFaversham; GraveshamMaidstoneMalling (including Kings Hill)

Page 4 -SevenoaksSheppeyShepway (including Folkestone and Hythe); SittingbourneSwanley

Page 5 -ThanetTonbridge;Tunbridge WellsJunior Schools

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Last modified on Saturday, 09 February 2019 23:12


  • Comment Link Sunday, 10 November 2019 07:09 posted by Julia Finch

    Peter where do we find individual data for Maidstone schools please?
    PETER: Individual Schools Section on right. Secondary by name; Primary by District. Also try 2019 article

  • Comment Link Saturday, 09 February 2019 20:06 posted by Chris Ball

    Good to see St. Paul’s, Swanley Village getting the aknowledgement it deserves after a chequered few years. PETER: My pleasure; good to give praise where it is deserved. I must confess I have re-edited the section!

  • Comment Link Monday, 11 June 2018 11:21 posted by Matt

    Another example of poor planning, presumably prompted by KCC officers? The Bishop Chavasse Free School is unnecessary in Tonbridge. Proper analysis of the figures would have shown that. Investment in existing schools should have been more fully explored. The need seems to be greater elsewhere according to your excellent article.
    Yet another Free School placed where it is not needed in terms of the demographics.
    It is a pity that Bennett Memorial, with its Teaching School badge and Christian ethos, did not think it would be better to work to support existing Primary schools in Tonbridge rather than setting up a rival school that is likely to make their plight worse. PETER: Last year there were no free places in Tonbridge. This year, thanks to a temporary dip across the county for some reason, they are either in the rural area or else at schools which have been or are still in difficulties. Parents have a right to vote with their feet. Many schools have expanded to their natural or physical limit, as KCC tries to provide places in good schools. Don't forget, 30 extra places in a school requires seven classrooms over time. I have been and remain highly critical of KCC over its provision of primary school places (although it has no control over new schools), but not in this case.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 09 June 2018 05:04 posted by Kent Primary Head

    Peter, Thank you for this annual summary of pressures on primary school places in Kent. As you will know it is eagerly waited for by many primary heads who need to know what is happening around the county. We believe Kent is unique in the country in having this information provided. Certainly as head of one of the oversubscribed schools described, I shall use this to explain what is going on to those unfortunate families who are disappointed. PETER: My pleasure.

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