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Sunday, 13 May 2018 19:06

Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Primary Schools, 2018


Dover, Deal and Sandwich
As usual, there are few problems anywhere across the District, with a 15% vacancy rate. In Dover, there are three significantly oversubscribed schools out of 20, St Martin’s turning away 12 first choices, and Green Park & St Richard’s Catholic, eleven each. Over half the schools have vacancies, but none more than half empty.

In Deal and Sandwich, where there are a large number of rural schools, again over half the 19 schools have vacancies, three being over half empty, Goodnestone and Nonington for the second consecutive year. Just two schools significantly oversubscribed, Hornbeam in Mongeham with 13 disappointed first choices, after having last year’s additional temporary class removed, and Warden House Deal with 11.

Just four of the nine schools filled, with the consistently high performing and Ofsted ‘Outstanding’ Ethelbert Road 12 first choices oversubscribed. KCC had thought there was going to be pressure in Faversham and kept Bysing Wood expanded from 30 to 60 places for the second year running, following its ‘Good’ Ofsted, but filled only 16 of them.
A couple of years ago, Gravesham was the worst performing District in Kent, measured by Ofsted outcomes and performance. Since then, 16 out of the 17 most recent Ofsted Reports have been ‘Good’, the exception being Copperfield academy, see below.

The only area under pressure is Northfleet, where KCC oddly persuaded sponsors to pull out of a planned new school in the expanding area of Ebbsfleet, on the grounds it was not needed. They have done exactly the same once before arguing that a new school in the area would place the struggling Dover Road School (now Copperfield Academy) in jeopardy, resulting in a shortage of places. Copperfield is still struggling, a recent critical Ofsted Monitoring Report making clear it has been failed by its sponsors, the Reach 2 Academy Trust. To compensate for the lost school, KCC kept Dover Road at an expanded 90 places, although it has failed to fill a whole class of them, also taking in 11 LAAs. I presume the extra class has been folded for, there being no other vacancies in Northfleet, some pupils are being taxied right across Gravesham to the East of the town where there are spaces. Cecil Road (close to Copperfield) remains one of the most oversubscribed schools in Kent, turning away 32 first choices, closely followed by St Joseph’s Catholic with 27.

Meanwhile in Gravesend, half the schools have vacancies, all on the East side of town, with Singlewell the only significantly oversubscribed school having 21 disappointed first choices. In the countryside, Cobham continues to be popular, now alongside Higham which turned away 11 first choices. Istead Rise continues to be a problem, even after its takeover by Swale Academies Trust, its most recent Ofsted back in 2014 being Special Measures. Even with its capacity cut back by 15 places to 45, there are still 19 vacancies.

There are just four out of the 24 schools with vacancies in the town, all with a high number of empty places, although there are several more in neighbouring East Malling (see below). As a result there are just 4% vacancies overall, with housing developments suggesting even more pressures to come, and just one new school on the stocks, to be built in Bearsted.

Second most oversubscribed school in the County is Eastborough, turning away 52 first choices (well up from the 34 of 2017 when it was also the highest in Maidstone), followed by St Michael’s CofE Infants (‘Outstanding’ in 2014) with 32, Greenfields 22 (I remember the days when families fought to avoid Greenfields), St John’s CofE with 21, and South Borough 14, having cut back its 30 additional temporary places in 2017 to the previous intake of 60 children, as did West Borough.

All four schools with vacancies have history in these pages, and are probably struggling to lose their reputation. Tree Tops Academy, which I once described as probably the worst school in Kent, still on Ofsted ‘Requires Improvement’, has a third of its places unfilled. Barming was placed in Special Measures in 2015, then made worse by a temporary head put in place by KCC, who also ran Palace Wood for a while. Becoming a sponsored academy the next year, Barming does not get another OFSTED until at least 2019. Mole Hill Academy failed Ofsted five years ago, then run, like Tree Tops, by a disastrous Academy Trust, but has worked its way up to ‘Good’ in January this year, probably too late to influence applications.

The pressures are also seen through the 62 LAAs, nearly one in every six in the county. The large majority of these have been placed in one of three schools: St Paul’s Infant, St Francis (once Special Measures but now ‘Good’), and Mole Hill. The first two are now full as a result.

Outside the town, although the number of vacancies has fallen sharply from 20% in 2017, to 12% because of building developments, once again nearly all children have been offered a school of their choice. Most popular is Loose, oversubscribed by 37 first choices, now fully recovered after initial difficulties following the amalgamation of Infant and junior schools. It is followed by Bredhurst, with 20, on the border with Medway (from where a number of its applications will come).

Three of the 21 schools have more than a third of their places empty, most at Sutton Valence with 53%, over half empty for the second year and with a continued ‘Requires Improvement’ Ofsted, in spite of having been oversubscribed in 2016. Next comes Harrietsham 38%, although the extra spaces were created by an additional class being set up, which has probably now been collapsed. 

This is the drawn out and mainly rural part of Tonbridge District, stretching from Wouldham on the Medway border, through to Ightham near Tonbridge, containing 30 schools, with two urban areas near Maidstone, East Malling and Kings Hill.

There is little oversubscription, but headed by the village school of Ryarsh with 15 first choices oversubscribed, and an ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted, dating back to 2012. It is followed by Ightham with 13, and St George’s CofE, Wrotham with 10. Eighteen schools have vacancies, headed by Staplehurst, 41%, now Ofsted ‘Good’ but getting over a previous ‘Serious Weaknesses’, and by the two villages at the north of the area, Wouldham and Burham, each with just over a third of their places empty.

Last modified on Saturday, 09 February 2019 23:12


  • 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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