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Sunday, 19 May 2019 18:38

Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Primary Schools, 2019


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 The school's website 'Dedicated to Excellence'  is the most out of date I have seen for a long time.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%).

Last modified on Friday, 29 January 2021 22:52


  • 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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