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Sunday, 19 May 2019 18:38

Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Primary Schools, 2019


Update on Barming Primary below.

There has been a small increase in the number of pupils being allocated places in Kent Primary Reception Classes for the second year running. Places for the additional 97 children were met by 93 more permanent and temporary places created in the last year, including 30 completely new places for both the new Chilmington Green Primary in Ashford and the new extension of St George’s CofE in Gravesend to become all-through.  River Mill Primary in Dartford is opening in September but is not currently part of the Kent Co-ordinated Admission Procedure, accepting applications directly. These two factors have produced very similar data in the proportion of Kent families being offered schools of their choice over these two years, 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 17,634, up by 360 on 2018’s 17274 but still lower than the peak of 18,066 of 2016.

Brent Outstanding   2019 

The tightest part of the county is West Dartford with just 12 spaces in two of its 18 schools, an overall 1% vacancy rate (the second most oversubscribed Dartford school having just failed its Ofsted Inspection!), followed by urban Maidstone with 3%. The four most oversubscribed primary schools also occupied four of the top five places last year: Brent, Dartford (turning away 86 first choices); Great Chart, Ashford (54); Loose, Maidstone (48); and East Borough, Maidstone (46). Five of the ten most popular schools are in Maidstone.

                  Great Chart                   Loose                                       

Nine schools have over 60% of their places empty, led by Morehall Primary in Folkestone with 75% vacancies and including Martello Primary, also in Folkestone, with 63%, both run by Turner Schools.

I look at the issues in more detail below, including a survey of each separate District and also allocations for Junior Schools. 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

The Kent Commissioning Plan 2019-2023 provides an official view of the current situation and future planning requirements for Kent and is consistent with this article for 2019 provision. 

This annual report is the longest article I write in the year and will become one of the most visited in time. The parallel 2018 article has now received 13,109 visits at the time of writing. 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 2018-19 outcomes to Easter 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, and so I have separated these below. There is also a preference for schools to have two forms of entry (60 children), although this is under ever increasing pressure as more places need to be provided. 

Smallest Kent Primary School
District Vacancy Percentage 2019
Dartford West  1%
Maidstone Urban 3%
Canterbury Rural
Gravesham Rural 3% 
Tunbridge Wells  4% 
Ashford Urban  5% 
Sevenoaks Urban 6% 


At the other end of the scale, the schools in the villages in Folkestone and Hythe District have, together with Hythe itself, 27% of their places empty overall, headed up by Brenzett CofE with three quarters of its places unfilled for the second year running, after its failed Ofsted in November 2015.

Whilst the pattern of the most popular schools changes each year, the four most oversubscribed schools, Brent, Great Chart, Loose and East Borough were also there in 2018, along with Herne CofE Infants. Herne has dropped right down the scale this year with only three first choices disappointed, having had just one year in the limelight (nine oversubscribed in 2017). Brent benefited enormously from its ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted in January 2017, up from ‘Requires Improvement’, having had vacancies in 2017 and there is no doubt about the high correlation between Ofsted category and parental preference, underlining the importance of a strong Ofsted assessment to a school. I also take into consideration schools at the extremes of the KS2 performance table where these are may be relevant, below. Great Chart and Loose are the only Kent schools to have been in the top ten most oversubscribed schools for three years. The Ofsted Special Measures decision for the popular Dartford Bridge arrived too late for parents making choices this year. 

School District
First Choices
Brent Primary
86 73
Great Chart Primary Ashford 60 54 40
Loose Primary Maidstone  60 48 37
East Borough Primary Maidstone 60 46 52
Greenfields Community Maidstone 45 39 22 
St John's CofE Primary  Maidstone 60 37 21 
Wincheap Foundation Canterbury 60 33
Dartford Bridge Community Dartford 60 33 23 
Bredhurst CofE VC Primary Maidstone 15 33 20 
Slade Primary Tonbridge 60 32 25 
Local Authority Allocations
The number of children with no school of their choice has risen by 50 this year  to 447 with two schools, Knockhall in Dartford and Molehill in Maidstone accounting for 10% of these between them. Whilst most of these will be sad stories, some of which will be resolved as some children drop out and waiting lists gather up other children, the final figure will be significantly lower. One reason 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; Folkestone & HytheGraveshamMaidstone

Page 4 -Malling (including Kings Hill); SevenoaksSheppey; SittingbourneSwanley

Page 5 -ThanetTonbridge;Tunbridge WellsJunior Schools

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Last modified on Friday, 29 January 2021 22:52


  • Comment Link Saturday, 01 June 2019 05:39 posted by Bitter and Angry Parent whose child is being failed by politicians

    We are in the same dreadful situation as your previous commentator. Our MP says that government has set up processes to enable Local Authorities to commission new Free Schools to address any shortage. KCC must have failed to follow this through or to attract sponsors. Our local County Councillor says it is government's failure to provide Local Authorities with powers to set up new schools. Our Liberal District Councillor says it is both. All sympathise. None acts. We will continue to vote Liberal Democrat.

  • Comment Link Friday, 31 May 2019 23:42 posted by Emily

    What an awful situation you describe. Peter we are in despair. We carried out our research as recommended by everyone, looking for the most suitable Maidstone school for out daughter. We were not over-ambitious, preferring to settle for a reasonable school including applying for our nearest (moderate performing) to avoid being being allocated one of the disaster areas, knowing places were tight. We failed and do not know how we could have done better. We cannot subject her to the school she has been offered, as our visit showed. You were the last straw, offering us no hope that we can improve. We both work so Home Education is not an alternative. We now cry ourselves to sleep nightly having tried every other possibility again without success and able to offer no future for our daughter. How can the county and the country fail its future citizens like this? PETER: I am so sorry, but if I don't spell out the truth no one will. Do not give up completely. Go on every waiting list (apply for each school directly). Sadly, you don't have a case for appeal, but it may make you feel worse if you don't try. My heart goes out to you and your family. This is a failure by the system, not by you, and it will be no consolation but you are not alone.

  • Comment Link Friday, 31 May 2019 15:58 posted by Maidstone Primary HT

    As usual, Peter, the only full and accurate picture of Kent primary allocations. An invaluable source of information about what is going on in Maidstone schools. My colleagues and I will mull over this in detail, and it is a lesson for some who deny the realities! Thank you.

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