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Friday, 22 March 2019 06:09

Oversubscription & Vacancies Kent Non-Selective Secondary Schools 2019


Four of the five schools oversubscribed, with Fulston Manor third most popular school in Kent for the second consecutive year, rejecting 152 first choices for its 270 places, although just six extras were offered places on appeal. Westlands, also traditionally popular, has eased the pressure by taking in an additional 45 pupils bringing its intake up to 330 this year,topped up with 51 successful appeals out of 52 (whatever happened with the 52nd?).  

Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy not only has 88 of its 390 places empty, but 79 of its offers are to LAAs. Many 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. This year the pressure is even more intense with families to the south of Sittingbourne being allocated LAA places at Oasis Sheppey. A number of previous articles, most recently here, highlight the issues.  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. The Kent Schools Commissioning Plan 2019-23 reports: 'The forecast surplus places (for Sheppey Academy) are a result of the increasing number of children travelling off the Isle of Sheppey for their education. In 2014 there were 126 students (4FE) living on the Island who attended a Sittingbourne non-selective school. This increased to 177 (6FE) in 2017. If this trend continues then an estimated 185 children will be leaving the Island by 2023.'. It also proposes: ' We will continue to press for access to the North Sittingbourne (Quinton Road) development to establish a new secondary school to meet the predicted need from 2022-23'. This has already slipped from 2021-22 in the 2018 Plan and I cannot recall any new school built on time in recent years,  so more problems next year! To come will be a further covering the 30 out of 84 full-time teachers being unqualified in 2018-19.

I am regularly asked about the chances of appeal from Isle of Sheppey to one of the mainstream schools. Oversubscription figures for Fulston and Westlands are in the 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 either in 2019.  Well worth a try with a late application if necessary, if you can't face OISA. Some families desperate enough to avoid the  school home educate with some 150 families on the Island trying this at present! This should not be happening. Girls might like to try Rainham School for Girls in Medway.

No vacancies at present in four of the six schools, with St George's Cof E, King Ethelbert and Charles Dickens  schools being three of the most oversubscribed schools in Kent. At the other end of the scale, are Royal Harbour with 88 LAAs for its 250 places but still with nine vacancies in spite of being the only Thanet school to expand this year (by 50 places) and Hartsdown 101 LAAs for its 180 places, still with 5 vacancies. Royal Harbour was found to be Inadequate last June, but has recently had a more positive Monitoring Report. The 189 families who have no school of their choice make up an astonishing one in every six applicants to a Thanet non-selective school, by some way the highest  figure for any District. The root of the problem is that the two schools  are intensely unpopular with many local families  for some years, so many families plan their applications accordingly to try and avoid the schools, with high levels of disappointment. The problems were exacerbated after no suitable sponsors could be found for a proposed new six form entry Free School, but  a new secondary Free School has now been commissioned on the site of the former Royal School for the Deaf with the Howard Academy Trust from Medway being confirmed as the successful sponsor. The School could open in temporary accommodation in 2020 with 120 Year 7 places, and in 2021 on the new site as a 6FE school..

Hartsdown Academy, one of my three Tough Love Academies almost appears to seek controversial headlines, an article last year covering just one of these. 24 children from the school left for Home Education in 2017-18, third highest percentage of any school in the county, only below Oasis Sheppey (above) and High Weald (below). Lowest performing school in Kent on Progress 8 and Attainment 8. Many non-selective schools lose numbers before September, some through successful grammar school appeals. In the case of Thanet the four popular ones each fill up from Hartsdown and Royal Harbour, also  taking on  extra pupils through appeals. In September, Hartsdown began the year with just 112 pupils for its 180 places, having lost 38% of those offered places in March 2018. The new school will hit this hard. 

Tonbridge and Malling
The District is long and thin, stretching from Aylesford in the North, curving round Maidstone to Tonbridge itself, with a very mixed picture for its schools. The two most oversubscribed schools, both under pressure from Maidstone are Wrotham (44 first choices turned away, in spite of adding in 20 late extra places onto its 2019 PAN)) and Malling (33 disappointed), both with a  changing pattern of admissions. When nearby Meopham and Malling schools were struggling, Wrotham benefited greatly, but now these schools have recovered, any gap has been filled with families trying to avoid the troubles at Holmesdale, below. Malling will have taken a knock for next year with its recent Requires Improvement Ofsted and disappointing GCSE results, there being a recent summary of its history here as well as in the Individual Schools section.  
I have written extensively about the avoidable disaster that is Holmesdale , its Special Measures the only secondary school in Kent, second worst GCSE Progress 8 in the county, fourth highest vacancy percentage in Kent at 29%, and 56 LAAs amongst other statistics. Remarkably, 23 children from Medway choose the school, another 21 choosing Aylesford, although there are much stronger schools in their own Authority. 
Last year I wrote about 'the puzzle that  is Hayesbrook' which was clearly highly unpopular with local families, although high performing. However, the 2018 GCSE results lost that cachet, and the multiple signs of dissatisfaction have increased and are set out plainly here. The school's 50% vacancies before adding in the 55 LAAs are the fifth highest in the county, and even more tellingly, for the 2018 intake, 49% of those offered places in March did not turn up in September, second highest figure in Kent. Hayesbrook is part of the Brook Learning Trust, along with High Weald Academy in Tunbridge Wells and Ebbsfleet Academy in Dartford. These three schools all feature in the top five in the county in the table above for vacancies before LAA allocations. None of this explains why Hayesbrook is so disliked. Where do the LAAs come from, the only other Tonbridge school admitting boys, Hugh Christie, turning away just 18 first choices, so probably not there. The village of Hadlow, a few miles out of town is one possibility, although Hadlow Rural Community School with its land based specialisation is apparently losing some of its shine, perhaps as families realise the implications of its specialist curriculum. In 2018 it was one of the most oversubscribed schools in the county turning away 66 first choices, but this year rejecting 27. 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 third most popular in the District, with 31 disappointed first choices, although it had also added 20 late extra places to its PAN.