Supporting Families
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. 

Largest 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

In 2017, there was just one school with vacancies out of the 19 in and around the town, this year there are seven, with 7% vacancies across the town, with another new school arriving joining the Kent Admissions process this year, Chilmington Green, having admitted 15 children in 2018-19 between Years One and Four. At present it is in temporary accommodation, awaiting new premises near Great Chart, so perhaps it is is no great surprise it was allocated a massive 15 LAAs out of the 19 offers made, but with a large new housing development to come on stream this year which will solve the problem. Meanwhile, nearby Great Chart is as usual heavily oversubscribed, turning away 54 first choices, the second most popular school in Kent. Other pressure points are Victoria Road (with 22 first choices losing out), Phoenix Community, Kennington (19), Goat Lees, Kennington (18) and Willesborough Infants(13). The only one of these to feature in 2018 was Goat Lees. Over a third of the 68 vacancies are at Furley Road Primary Academy which was expanded by 30 places to 90 to meet local pressures in 2018. Outside town just eight out of 21 schools are oversubscribed, none heavily, with Brabourne CofE most popular, with 8 disappointed first choices. Four schools have over a third of their places empty, most at Charing CofE which has a troubled history, with 55% of its places going spare and one of the lowest proportion of pupils reaching the Expected Standard in Key Stage 2. Bethersden CofE with 35% vacancies had one of lowest KS 2 performances in the county by all measures in 2018 with no pupils achieving at a higher standard. The school's website 'Dedicated to Excellence'  is the most out of date I have seen for a long time. The latest news is that Christmas 2017 is coming,  although there are newsletters up to October 2018. Even so there is no mention of the school's application to become a Converter Academy made in March 2018. Perhaps this is because approval appears unlikely with the 2018 KS2 performance taken into consideration in spite of a Good Ofsted last year. 
As in previous years, the popularity of the nine city schools is heavily polarised, with five schools oversubscribed, led this year Wincheap Foundation Primary turning away 33 first choices, and St Thomas’ Catholic School with 21.  The 38 Local Authority Allocations are spread amongst the other four. Parkside Community School has just ten pupils for its 30 places (nine in 2018) following its KS2 results being amongst the worst  in the county for the second consecutive year.  Pilgrims Way has picked up considerably but still has a third of its places empty. St John’s CofE, which appears to be through its most troubled time, with a Good Ofsted, had 13 LAAs, most in the whole District with 11 vacancies perhaps reflecting its poor Key Stage 2 performance in 2018, also amongst the lowest in the county.

The real pressure comes in the rural hinterland with just 11 vacancies in three of the eleven schools, in all 3% of the total number of places.  Even so, just two schools are significantly oversubscribed: Blean with 31 first choices turned away and Bridge & Patrixbourne 15, also the top two in 2018. Even Adisham, another school at the bottom of the KS2 performance table had four disappointed first choices. 

By contrast, a total of 17% of places available at the nine Canterbury coastal schools went unfilled. Just two of these had no vacancies as in 2018, but with their fortunes reversed. Hampton which just filled in 2018 turned away 17 first choices, whilst Herne CofE Infants which had turned away 43 first choices for its 90 places in 2018, saw this figure wither away to three this year.

Cranbrook and Weald
This is technically part of Tunbridge Wells District, but the mainly rural locations of the twelve schools means it has a very different character from the urban area. Just one school, Goudhurst & Kilndown CofE is, as usual, heavily oversubscribed with its Outstanding Ofsted, and excellent KS2 results including third highest proportion of pupils in Kent achieving a high standard,disappointing 19 first choices out of 23 in the district. Sandhurst’s Good Ofsted in February, up from Requires Improvement, and improved KS 2 results were too late to influence its regular low intake with 53% vacancies.
A new school, River Mill Primary, sponsored by the Connect Schools Academy Trust based in Bromley, to meet demand in the Northern Gateway area of town, is opening in September for 30 pupils in Year R and 15 in Year One. Applications are direct to the school, as it is not covered through the Kent scheme until 2020, and so will have an effect on the situation described below, as it draws pupils away from some of these schools.  
In the urban west of the District,  just one school has more than one vacancy, Joyden’s Wood Infants with 11 of the 12 available, also with the largest number in 2018. It is unclear what the problem with this Ofsted Good Academy is. For the second year running, the overall vacancy rate is the lowest in the county, falling to 1% from 3% in 2018. Brent Primary is the most oversubscribed school in the county for the second year, with 86 disappointed first choices for its 90 places, up even further from 73 in 2018, with parents no doubt  attracted by its ‘Outstanding’ Ofsted of 2017, up from ‘Requires Improvement’. Dartford Bridge Community comes second with 33 first choices oversubscribed, decisions being made before the school was placed in Special Measures earlier this year. Other popular schools were Westgate, with its Good Ofsted of March this year, up from Special Measures in 2013, via academisation and St Anselm’s Catholic both with 21 disappointed first choices.

In the east of Dartford, where many of the schools are in the villages, and where I also include Hartley from Sevenoaks as feeding into Dartford, just three of the twelve schools are oversubscribed with first choices. These are Hartley Primary Academy (13), Our Lady of Hartley (4), both with ‘Outstanding’ Ofsteds and Craylands with nine.  Last year’s new Cherry Orchard Primary had an additional 30 places added to its original 30. Even so only three more have vacancies, not including Stone St Mary’s  which fills by virtue of its 12 LAAs, a sharp fall from 2018, when it was the most popular school with 18 places oversubscribed. Knockhall Primary continues to be very unpopular, having  previously been unfortunate to be a Lilac Sky school, with a third of its places empty, even after 20 LAAs. The other two schools with vacancies, both having just one form of entry, are Bean (33%) and Darenth Community (30%).

Dover, Deal and Sandwich
As usual, there are few problems anywhere across the District, with a 13% vacancy rate. In Dover, there is just one significantly oversubscribed school out of 20, St Martin’s turning away 12 first choices. Next comes Capel-Le Ferne with seven. Over half of the 21 schools have vacancies, all fewer than a third empty.

In Deal and Sandwich, where there are a large number of rural schools, again over half the 19 schools have vacancies, Goodnestone having 5 of its ten places empty, for the second consecutive year, and Sandwich Infants 38%. St Mary’s Catholic School tops the oversubscription list of seven schools, turning away just 8 disappointed first choices.

The more important news is the mass conversion of Deal and Walmer primary schools to become Academies, in a single Multi Academy Trust, the Deal Education Alliance for Learning Trust (DEALT) in spite of considerable local opposition, as explained here in an article where I applauded the proposal. The seven schools are: Deal Parochial CofE; Hornbeam; Kingsdown and Ringwould CofE (Ofsted Outstadning, the other six are all Good); Northbourne CofE; Sandown; Sholden CofE; and The Downs CofE.  The other two local primary schools are already academies.

The nine Faversham schools are suffering from a lack of pupils with just two nine schools filled and a total of 33% vacant desks. Six of the schools have a single form of entry. Most popular is St Mary of Charity CofE, in Special Measures under KCC a few years back, but now achieved Good under the Diocese of Canterbury Aquila Trust, and with excellent KS2 results, turning away 10 first choices. The other oversubscribed school is Ethelbert Road (6) still benefiting from its Outstanding Ofsted of 2014.

For unfathomable reasons, KCC doubled the Published Admission Number for Bysing Wood to 60 in 2017 and has kept it there, resulting in a 75% vacancy rate this year, the highest in the county along with two other schools. Graveney, a standalone academy witha PAN of 15, has made just six offers and one wonders how much longer such a small moderately performing school can operate on its own. Luddenham also has over 50% vacancies.

Folkestone and Hythe
The headline for Folkestone  schools is clearly yet another failure by the two primary Turner Schools, a PR organisation that has occupied many pages on this site, most recently here, and also here. Morehall has 75% of its 60 places empty, the joint highest percentage in Kent, and Martello with 63%, the ninth highest. In spite of the repeated claims by Turner Schools, Last year, Turner tried to hide the fall in numbers at these two schools the previous year, along withe Folkestone Academy secondary by refusing to provide the relevant census numbers. They made my complaint to the Information Commissioner more difficult by falsely claiming they did not have to carry out an Internal Review, part of the process of complaint. Not only were they forced to disgorge the information proving my allegation, they have now had to re-institute the Internal Review process.  
Morehall’s KS2 results were poor: percentage of pupils reaching expected standard 46% (Kent average 64%), Reading – Well Below Average; Maths – Below Average, with only writing Average. Martello, a new school which has not yet grown up to KS2 age level, had the second highest Exclusion rate in the county last year, with 25% of pupils being excluded for a fixed term, apparently to ‘set high standards of behaviour’, contrary to the Trust view that a high exclusion rate is a sign of poor teaching.Turner Schools also run the primary section of the all-through Folkestone Academy which has been highly successful since long before TS took over, it being Ofsted Outstanding before merging with the secondary section, and appears to have been allowed to run in its own way without significant interference. It has decided to offer 12 additional places above the PAN of 60, which won't have helped the others.

Just one of the 18 town schools, Sandgate is significantly oversubscribed turning down 14 first choices (most recent full Ofsted inspection was in 2007, when the school was found Outstanding), with Christ Church CofE second with eight, benefiting from its excellent KS2 results in 2018. Five other town schools had vacancies, most at Mundella with 40% empty spaces.

In the whole of Hythe and the rural parts of the District, just one of the 19 schools is oversubscribed, Saltwood, oversubscribed by four first choices. 13 schools did not fill, with Brenzett once again 75% vacancies, or 15 of its 20 places. The school’s most recent Ofsted placed it in Special Measures and along with Dymchurch (44%) also in SM, it was taken over by Aquila, the Diocese of Canterbury Academy Trust which has a good record in turning round schools,  notably at Reculver and St Mary of Charity both in Special Measures under KCC, but Outstanding after academisation. Lydd also with a high proportion of vacancies and a dire history, including Special Measures, now taken over by The Village Academy Trust has 42% vacancies. It will clearly take time to restore confidence in these schools.

The only area in town under pressure is Northfleet, where KCC oddly persuaded sponsors to pull out of a planned new school in the expanding area of Ebbsfleet in 2018, on the grounds it was not needed. They also did 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. For 2019, Copperfield has been kept with a PAN of 90 but has gone from bad to worse, having been warned by a critical Ofsted Monitoring Report in October 2017, making clear it had been failed by its sponsors, the Reach 2 Academy Trust. The Trust has ignored the warning over the past 18 months  and as a result was placed in Special Measures in March, unsurprising given in addition its appalling KS2 results, including no pupils achieving at a higher standard. . Its intake for 2019 has dropped to 51 children including 14 LAAs, from 65 in 2018. There are just six unfilled places in the other seven Northfleet schools. Four are significantly oversubscribed with first choices: St Joseph’s Catholic (27); St Botolph’s CofE (17); Cecil Road and Lawn (12 each).

Meanwhile in Gravesend, where there is no shortage of places, St George’s CofE has been allowed to open a Primary section, admitting 30 children and contributing to the loss in six other schools of a total of 51 pupils, including nearby Whitehill losing 10 from a school recently oversubscribed. Also in 2018 Singlewell, which has three vacancies, was oversubscribed by 21 first choices in a typical year. To compound this problem, St George’s has been given permission to advertise for Year One pupils for September, who will be drawn directly out of other local schools, damaging their plans for the year. Just two schools are oversubscribed, with 19 at St John’s Catholic.

Just one of the seven village schools has vacancies, Vigo Village School at the far end of the Borough with 9 empty spaces. Istead Rise has overcome its previous horrors, and its Good Ofsted gained under new Sponsors Swale Academy Trust, sees it full for the first time on many years. Elsewhere there is a considerable shift in popularity. Cobham, for some years one of the most oversubscribed schools in the county, is down to 10 disappointed first choices (from 21 in 2018 and 35 in 2017), although 2018 KS2 results are amongst the best in Kent, including highest proportion of pupils achieving at a higher standard. Higham is down from 11 to one oversubscribed, whilst travelling in the other direction Meopham which had eight vacancies in 2018, is 11 first choices oversubscribed.

There are just four out of the 25 schools in the town with vacancies, for the second year running, although Molehill has only filled by virtue of its 26 LAAs. It has expanded by 15 places to accommodate these, with last year’s Good Ofsted apparently having failed to convince. The two schools with 10 vacancies each, Palace Wood (Good at last) and Tree Tops (Requires Improvement), would have had considerably more bar the 21 LAAs allocated to them. Both of these, along with Barming (Special Measures) with its eight vacancies, have had a difficult history recorded elsewhere in these pages.
Update on Barming Primary School: Although not yet published although you can find it here, Ofsted has Inspected Barming for the first time as an Academy in the Orchard Academy Trust (along with Allington Primary, see below). The school has been found Good, yet another KCC school upgraded after academisation. In this case KCC, after the failed Ofsted, and operating through a rogue officer, had put in a highly controversial Acting Head who had damaged four schools in different capacities at Barming previously, who presiding over three Monitoring Inspections at the school, the third of which identified falling standards.  

Eight schools have 10 or more first choices turned away, headed up by Loose (48) and East Borough (46) the second and third most oversubscribed schools in Kent. Third again is Greenfields with 39, well up on 2018’s 22 and a long way from the days when I advised families how to avoid the school. Then come: St John’s CofE (37); St Michael’s CofE Infants (31); South Borough (21); and Brunswick House (17).

Quite simply, there are not enough primary school places in Maidstone even though Allington (Outstanding in 2008, and not subsequently inspected) took in an additional form of entry to ease the pressure, so that effectively there were no vacancies at all. A few years ago KCC tried to commission a new school in Bearsted, but was overruled by government which approved one for Langley Park, outside town, which did not meet the need at that time, but saw Bearsted children allocated to the school on the other side of town. Then, in 2017 another new school was approved for opening in September 2018, the Bearsted Primary Academy, although as so often the opening date has now slipped to 2020 even  though the need is now.

Other schools with a number of LAAs are Archbishop Courtenay, Special Measures in 2017 (11), , and Tree Topsout of Special Measures in 2015, up to Requires Improvement twice (8), 

In total, there are 82 LAAs across Maidstone, almost 20% of the total for Kent.

Outside town, just three of the 20 schools were significantly oversubscribed: Bredhurst CofE, tucked just in Kent up against the M2 in Gillingham, Ofsted Outstanding in 2011, turning away 33 disappointed first choices. Then come Langley Park (see above) with 14, and Boughton Monchelsea with 10.

Worryingly, there are three schools with five or fewer children offered places on allocation, so they are surely at risk in terms of viability, although all three have a recent Good Ofsted. Leeds & Bromfield and Ulcombe both have a Published Admission Number of 15, and admitted the same number in 2017, although both filled in 2018. The other school is Laddingford St Mary’s CofE, with a PAN of just 13,

The other school with a large number of vacancies is Harrietsham, which doubled in size to an intake of 60 in 2018 and, in spite of its Good Ofsted, has 25 empty places. 

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,  Aylesford/East Malling and Kings Hill.

There is little oversubscription, but headed by Kings Hill with 12 first choices disappointed, with Brookfield Infants 10, and Lunsford 9, both in Aylesford. Aylesford Primary,  run by Valley Invicta Trust (see below) was enlarged by 15 places to 60 and filled 52 in total, confirming the extreme pressure in that area. 17 schools had vacancies, over half the total, the highest proportion being at Valley Invicta (Kings Hill) with 50% of its places or 15 out of 30, unfilled. The Discovery School also on Kings Hill has 19 of its 60 places empty. A few years ago, when there were just Discovery and Kings Hill serving the area they were both heavily oversubscribed.

Next highest is Burham, with 46% vacant spaces and St Katherine’s, Snodland suffering a massive fall in popularity with 44% of its 90 places unfilled, following a fall in Ofsted rating to Requires Improvement. Staplehurst also suffered from a fall in Ofsted to Requires Improvement, with 40% empty spaces.

As usual, four of the six places in town are oversubscribed, although pressures are not as strong as in the last few years. Most popular are Riverhead Infants (once the most oversubscribed schools in Kent) and St John’s CofE both turning away 14 first choices, followed by Sevenoaks (6) and Lady Boswell’s CofE, slumping in popularity with just two (17 in 2018). Seal has most vacancies with 17 of its 60 places empty, in spite of repeatedly good KS2 results. However, this picture can change considerably before places are taken up in September with a considerable number of families choosing a private school as an alternative.

The large hinterland of Sevenoaks District (excluding Swanley below) has just 44 first choices denied across its 21 schools, spread across 11 schools, and up from 11 first choices oversubscribed in 2018. Most are at Chiddingstone CofE (15) and Crockenhill (8).

Eight schools have a total of 100 vacancies, over half being at Edenbridge (39) with its dreadful history, including being placed in Special Measures, but subsequently academised, and Churchill CofE, Westerham (27), Ofsted downgraded to Requires Improvement, along with very poor KS2 results. Penshurst CofE may have just six vacancies, but this is 40% of its total intake of 15 pupils.

Just two of the 10 schools are oversubscribed, Queenborough (Outstanding Ofsted) turning away 15 first choices and Minster in Sheppey eight. Richmond and Thistle Hill are still apparently suffering after the damage inflicted on them by the late unlamented Lilac Sky Academy Trust with 65% and 33% of their PAN numbers vacant respectively, both being Ofsted Requires Improvement. Thistle Hill had the very worst KS2 results in Kent, with Richmond not far ahead.  St George’s CofE had 35% empty desks, in spite of its recent Good Ofsted. All the other schools have more than 12% of places empty.
Sittingbourne & Rural Swale
I have considered Faversham and Sheppey, both also parts of Swale, in separate sections.

In and around the town, three schools out of the 13 are significantly oversubscribed, led by Canterbury Road and Iwade each turning away 14 first choices, followed by St Peter’s Catholic with seven. Five schools have vacancies, Sunny Bank having 53% places empty. The school is the result of the recent amalgamation of Murston Infant and Junior schools, which does not appear to have been popular with parents. Regis Manor has also declined in popularity with 40% vacancies.

Of particular note is Tunstall CofE, which relocated to new premises on the edge of town, doubled in size and armed with an Outstanding Ofsted was the most popular school in Sittingbourne in 2018, but has slumped to having 12% vacancies this year after the appointment of a new head, despite the claim on the welcome page of its website that it is 'extremely popular and oversubscribed '.. Something has changed .

Outside the town, the only one of the 15 schools to have significant oversubscription is Bobbing, turning away 31 first choices. None of the other five oversubscribed schools have more than four first choices rejected. Nine schools with vacancies, headed up by Eastling with 60% empty spaces, followed by two schools from The Village Academy Trust, Milstead & Frinsted CofE with 53%, and Lynsted & Norton with 45%. No others above 20%.

Swanley and Area
Of the 12 schools, just three are significantly oversubscribed: St Paul’s CofE VC, Swanley (15); Horizon, also Swanley, and Crockham Hill CofE VC both with 10 disappointed first choices. Five schools have vacancies, most at West Kingsdown CofE and Halstead each with 60% of their places empty, and Downsview Community, Swanley with 30%. Every one of the Swanley schools has a Good Ofsted.  

There are 18% vacancies across Thanet so few pressure points and no schools highly oversubscribed. Just 26 LAAs for 1481 pupils, a remarkably low figure. Most popular are: Palm Bay, Margate, 24 first choices rejected, followed by: Newington Community, Ramsgate (22) and Cliftonville (19) – these being the two Thanet primaries with Outstanding Ofsteds; Ramsgate Holy Trinity CofE (16); and St George’s CofE, Broadstairs (primary section with 15 first choices oversubscribed). 13 schools with vacancies: Dame Janet and Ellington Infants with 60% empty spaces each, but both with Good Ofsted; Drapers Mills 53% (along with Dame Janet run by TKAT and underperformed for several years before both eventually achieving Good); Northdown, Margate 47% also run by TKAT, but Requires Improvement; Garlinge,  39%, St Gregory’s Catholic 38% and Newlands 25% (TKAT) and very low KS2 outcomes – all three Ofsted Good and based in Margate. Whatever TKAT is doing to improve standards it doesn’t appear to ride well with parents.
The new Bishop Chavasse Free school with its 60 places, opened in 2018, continues to keep the Tonbridge situation dramatically changed from 2017, when there were no vacant places in town on allocation in April. Although numbers have risen this year, there are still 12% vacancies overall.

The only school seriously oversubscribed is Slade, normally Tonbridge’s most popular school (and most oversubscribed in Kent in 2017), turning away 31 first choices, followed by Sussex Road with 8. Half of the town’s 14 schools have vacancies, most as usual in the north of the town at Longmead Community (53% vacancies) and Cage Green (38%), both of which Require Improvement according to their latest Ofsted inspection. Next is Royal Rise with 33% whose most recent Ofsted placed it in Special Measures before it was academised in 2017 under the Cygnus Trust, which also has two schools in Dartford.  

Tunbridge Wells
Continues to be tight, with just five of the 20 schools having vacancies, most of the 50 empty places being concentrated on three schools. After several years having lost its top place, Claremont is once again the most oversubscribed school, turning away 31 first choices. It is followed by: Skinners Kent Primary Academy in its second year of operation with 27; St Peter’s CofE with 11 and Wells Free with 10. Langton Green traditionally also one of the most popular schools, had just three first choice families disappointed this year (is it relevant that the Headteacher has spent considerable time also running the scandal ridden Tunbury School on the Medway border. The small Speldhurst CofE expanded its 20 places by 10 to meet demand.

Temple Grove, usually the least popular school in the town, filled its 30 places this year thanks to 11 LAAs, although many of these won’t take them up as private education draws a number of children out of the system.  This left Rusthall St Paul’s with 50% vacancies, followed by St Mark’s CofE with 30%, propped up by eight LAAs.

Junior Schools
There are 26 Junior schools, most linked with Infant schools offering a straightforward follow on system, the infants having priority for admission.

As a result, there are only three schools significantly oversubscribed, headed up by Whitstable & Seasalter Endowed CofE, as some families at Whitstable Juniors  have attempt to switch for some years to a school with an Outstanding Ofsted and, normally very high KS2 results but not for 2018! But few will have been successful as Whitstable Juniors remains full in Year Three each September. St James’ CofE Junior in Tunbridge Wells had six unsuccessful first choices.

Five schools have 20% or more vacancies which may depend on other factors than their own reputation such as the number coming through from the linked Infant school, or other opportunities in the area. For example Sandwich Junior School had 48% vacancies, making 31 offers, not surprising with the feed in current Year Two at the Infant school having just 34 places filled for a PAN of 56. In Thanet, Christ Church CofE Juniors has 30% vacancies, but no specific linked Infant school, and St Laurence in Thanet CofE Juniors has 22%, linked to Ellington Infant which is usually undersubscribed.  Ditton CofE Junior is also 22% undersubscribed but having attracted 50 of the 52 children from Year Two in the Infant school.

Last modified on Sunday, 18 August 2019 18:45


  • 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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