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Sunday, 19 May 2019 18:38

Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Primary Schools, 2019


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.  

Last modified on Friday, 29 January 2021 22:52


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