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Monday, 02 March 2020 05:30

Kent Secondary School Allocations for September 2020: Initial Information and Advice

You will find much more detail about oversubscription and vacancies in Kent Non Selective school allocations here, and for grammar schools here, Medway N/S here and grammar here
Amongst other updates below are the cut off scores for all the five Kent super selective schools (3rd March) and information about grammar qualified children in Thanet not getting either local grammar school, but instead being offered Royal Harbour
The main news is that 2020 has seen the lowest proportion of pupils offered their first choice of secondary school in the allocation process on 2nd March for at least 10 years, along with the highest proportion offered none of their choices. This is not down to any significant increase in applicants, nor any change in the number of out of county applicants or places offered. 
You will find a full analysis by school and District of grammar school allocations here and of non-selective schools here which follows on from this article. 
In spite of this, Richard Long, Kent County Council’s Cabinet Member for Education and Skills, said: 'I am delighted that, despite a significant increase in the number of applications, almost 95% of families will be offered a place at one of the four schools they selected, while more than 77% will be offered a place at their first preference'. 
18,153 Kent children applied for places in Kent secondary schools for September, just 194 more than in 2019 so not the significant increase claimed by KCC, especially with 120 additional places from a new school in Dartford coming on stream. It is clear therefore that will be some very difficult situations for too many children awarded no school of their choice.

The annual increase in out of county applications to Kent schools over years has thankfully come to a halt this year, at 3,517 up just three on last year, but a third more than in 2016.  The number of OOC offers at 817, is one fewer than in 2019 and little different from 2016 when there were 803. As always this  will have been partially balanced by around 500 children offered places at schools outside Kent.

You will find more information below, including a look at some of the likely pressure points updated as they become apparent. These will inevitably include North West Kent for both selective and non-selective places, and non-selective Swale, Thanet and Tunbridge Wells.  You will also find required scores for super-selective schools inserted as I receive them (all information on both situations welcomed). 

There is initial advice at the foot of this article on what to do if you have not been offered the school of your choice. This begins as always with my Corporal Jones mantra, do NOTHING in panic! You may regret it. There is no quick fix. I regret that I no longer offer individual advice, although there is plenty below in this article, with links to multiple relevant articles.  

Later in the month I will provide more specific information and advice as KCC comes through with further details. 

This article was written for Monday March 2nd, National Secondary Allocation Day. I will updating it as I receive further information. Please note, I am always very grateful for families who let me know what is happening in specific areas or schools. There will also be a parallel article for Medway shortly.  The data will also be posted on the Individual Schools Section which provides a profile of every secondary school in Kent, with all data up to date at the time of writing except for the 2020 individual allocations.

On Radio Kent this morning (Monday 2nd) Mr Long stated: 'We have a total number of children who have applied, of 21,680 and the number of Kent pupils who have been offered a place was 18,159. I can tell you we have actually had the largest number of children who have had one of their preferences chosen on record'. Technically this is of course true, even if it is the smallest proportion on record! For using the press release tables (there are always minor adjustments going on), in 2020, there were 17,198 preference places offered which is 94.7%, of the total, whereas in 2019 there were 17,122 places offered  which may be a smaller number, but is also as in the previous nine years at least, a larger proportion at 95.3%. Difficult to know what to say. 

As always, when I get a school by school breakdown later this month I shall publish a fuller analysis  providing fuller details of allocation, oversubscription and vacancies for all Kent secondary schools.  You will find the parallel 2019 articles for Kent grammars here, non-selectives here, the two having been read 48,5785 times between them which offer considerable clues as to what is happening now. You will also find 2019 articles on Medway grammars here, and Medway non-selectives here, read by 9529 browsers to date.  These articles also provide considerable guidance on what to expect this time round.

The initial data for applicants for Kent secondary schools shows that 77.7% of  those from Kent were  offered their first choice, down from 79.1% in 2019. 955 Kent children have been given none of their four choices, at 5.3% of the total, up on last year’s 837 and virtually double the 2016 proportion of 2.7%. The proportion of children being offered one of their top two preferences at 89.3%, is down on the 90.7% of 2019, and again lowest for ten years.  At present, there are no obvious clues as to why the significant decline has happened, although I suspect it will be partially because of an increased  polarisation as families try to avoid certain schools.   

 Kent Secondary School Allocations: March 2020
Kent pupils 2020 2019 2018 2017 2016
No. of
No. of
No. of
No. of
No. of
Offered a first preference 14095 77.7%  14,201 79.1% 13,891 79.6% 13,418 80.4% 13,159 81.4%
Offered a second preference 2120 11.7%  2008 11.2% 1,937 11.1% 1,861 11.1% 1,840 11.4%
Offered a third preference 714 3.9%  691  3.9% 641 3.7% 593 3.6% 549 3.4%
Offered a fourth preference 269 1.5%  222  1.2% 208 1.2% 194 1.2% 196 1.2%
Allocated by Local Authority 955 5.3% 837   4.7% 765 4.4% 633 3.8% 428 2.7%
Total number of Kent pupils offered 18153    17,959   17,442   16,697   16,172  
You will find the KCC Press Release hereThe mistaken delight of Mr Long, KCC Cabinet Member, will come as a great disappointment to the many families who have lost out on places this year as recorded in this article.   Fortunately, this website contains the best data available for those who have lost out although, as Mr Long points out, KCC Admissions staff are on hand to advise. I am regularly told these staff are very knowledgeable and helpful although not allowed to offer comparative information about schools. Last year found a number of these informally recommending my services, an option not available am afraid for 2020. 
Please note that although this data identifies 955 children allocated places by KCC as there were no spaces in any of the schools they applied to, 85% of these did not apply to four schools, as allowed by the process, so this figure is certainly inflated. For example, some will just be applying to grammar schools, with the intention of appealing or taking up places in private schools if unsuccessful. Others will quite simply not have been able to find four choices to consider, especially in the rural areas. More still will have found some local schools unacceptable, and perhaps hope (falsely), that leaving blank spaces will increase their chances at a preferred school. KCC is obliged to offer all Kent children a school with vacancies and so many of these will find themselves with an offer that was always unacceptable. You will find considerable information on vacancies for non-selective schools in 2019, here, and grammar schools here, for contrary to popular media myth there are always Kent grammars with vacancies on allocation in March, In 2019, there were ten of these, nearly a quarter of the total. 
The proportion of successful first choices will always be deflated compared to comprehensive areas,  with 42 families whose child has not passed the Kent Test still putting a grammar as first choice on the form, and no non-selective schools. In total there was an astonishing 1,982 children who went to appeal for a grammar place in 2019, with 570 successful, most from Kent families, and therefore a considerable proportion of the 4058 Kent children who did not get their first place. If such families plan to appeal, then it is by far the best route to have placed at least one grammar school on the original admission form somewhere although, as I have advised elsewhere, position in such cases is irrelevant. Alternatively, families can make a late application for a school; see below. 
Local Pressures
I will cover all oversubscription and vacancy information by school and District as soon as I receive the data from KCC, later this month. I am learning this week of grammar qualified children in Thanet, being offered neither Chatham and Clarendon nor Dane Court, but instead being allocated to Royal Harbour. There are again other major difficulties in Thanet with a large number of Local Authority Allocations being made annually to Hartsdown and Royal Harbour Academies as every other school is heavily oversubscribed. KCC came up with a 'solution' to build a new secondary school in Margate, but this was vetoed at the last moment by retiring Leader of KCC, Paul Carter. We await a final decision from the Regional Schools Commissioner as to whether the new school goes ahead, but whichever way it goes, it will be controversial and does nothing to resolve the current problems.  
Non-selective places in Gravesham were very tight  with no vacancies in any of the six non-selective schools, with children being allocated to Ebbsfleet Academy in Dartford. The situation in Dartford should have been eased by the opening of the new Stone Lodge School, which is in the co-ordinated scheme for the first time.  North West Kent will also be heavily oversubscribed for grammar schools under pressure from London families, with Swanscombe and Greenhithe children in particular difficulty, again with grammar qualified children likely to be diverted again to non-selective Ebbsfleet Academy, expected to be the only school in the district with empty places. 
Elsewhere, problems will be mainly in non selective schools. Tunbridge Wells will again be a pressure area for non-selective places although KCC believes otherwise, as it considers children placed in High Weald Academy, Cranbrook and Hayesbrook School Tonbridge an acceptable alternative. Sittingbourne has a considerable problem with non-selective places but, whilst again official data show there are vacancies in Swale, I am once again receiving reports of allocations to unpopular Oasis Academy, Sheppey, the island to the north of town, and the only Swale school with those vacancies. Last year, the problem was eased by Westlands School offering 51 places on appeal, with financial support from KCC to ease the problem, but there is no guarantee this will happen again. 
Super Selective Scores
With the standardisation producing a higher pass score for 2020, it is unsurprising that that super-selective required scores have also risen.
Skinners School - One of the most surprising results of the year - 140 places have been offered to those living in the West Kent Area. Currently the furthest place offered is 3.294 miles (down from 10.099 milesstraight line distance from the school (not including siblings or those on Free School Meals). 20 places have been offered to those living in the Outer Area using the same criteria.  Currently the furthest place offered is 7.276 miles straight line distance from the school (not including siblings or those on Free School Meals.
There are two factors contributing to this outcome. Firstly, that with the aggregate pass mark in the Kent Test up from 321 to 330, and the same number of pupils fitting into the smaller range up to 421, additional boys will score over 360. In addition,
The Headteacher, Mr Wesson, has replied to an enquiry from myself as follows, and has given me permission to publish it.
       'Having spoken to KCC, I suspect the following has happened:
1) More children in the system and more boys doing well in the 11+. The number of boys eligible (ie 360+) for our first entry cut off, and living within 3.294 miles is 60 more than last year. 
2)Greater awareness of the change to our entry criteria than last year.
KCC feel that this sort of surge is common in the second year of new criteria being introduced.I cannot pretend that it is in our interest to have such fluctuations in our 'catchment' as it could scare parents off applying in future, but I do expect the catchment to grow over the reallocation period (there will be some refusals), so would encourage parents to hang in there. We will not be able to create extra places at the school, but I am very sorry if parents are disappointed by news this week. I hope this helps.
Bizarrely, the Kent 11 Plus Forum website has censored any mention of this important message.

Tonbridge Grammar: In area places (Tonbridge, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks addresses) 380 (tie-breaker at 1.847 miles); Governor places:  399 (no tie-breaker needed). For 2019, at this stage, the cut off scores were:  371; Governor Places 393.

Judd: 180 offers were made. The number of places available for the inner area is 157; the outer area is 23. The cut-off score for our inner area was 385 (2019: 376) with the outer area being 407 (402) (not all students on those scores being offered a place).
Dartford Grammar: In area boys, minimum score 379 (2019: 369); Out of area boys, minimum score 399 (2019: 391).
Dartford Grammar GirlsIn area girls, minimum score 372 (2019: 359); Out of area girls, minimum score 393 (2019: 355).
2019 Report
I depend on reports from families and other informal sources for these, and will include them as soon as received. Thanks to those who are able to assist. Kent Test scores for these schools in 2019 which were: Dartford Grammar School up to 369 for local children (up sharply from 358 in 2018), outside area 391 (up from 384); Dartford Grammar Girls up to  359 for local girls (up sharply from 341); out of area 385 (as in 2018); Judd 376 Inner (up from 364); Outer 402 (up from 395); Skinners ( new scheme with priority to West Kent boys) -  all with scores of 360 or above -  140 places to those living locally up to 10.099 miles; 20 places in the Outer area living up to 8.694 miles; and Tonbridge Grammar in area  with distance tie-breaker of 15.318 miles (down slightly from 394).
Out of County Applicants
The previously inexorable rise in out of county children applying for places in Kent schools appears to have halted at 3517, just three more that the 2019 figure There were 817 places offered, just one short of the 818 of 2019 and 2018 entry. 
It needs to be borne in mind both that a considerable number of the 457 London children who were offered Kent places last year will have eventually settled for places nearer home, and also that 503 Kent children were offered places going the other way out, of county. The headlines inevitably focus on pressure on grammar schools, although the number of OOC grammar school places offered at Kent schools fell in 2019 as a result of several giving priority to Kent children in the last few years years. These are: The Judd School; the two Wilmington Grammar Schools; and The Skinners School. Over a third of the grammar places, 147, were offered by the two Dartford Grammar Schools. Its very easy to look for headlines, and the media often do in this area but for example  in 2019, over a hundred of the 135 Medway children taking up places in Kent schools went to non-selective schools. 
Out of County Applicants to Kent Secondary Schools 2016-20
Year 2020*  2019 2018 2017 2016
Out of county applicants 3517 3514 3,289 2,744 2,624
Offers to out of county pupils
at Kent grammar schools
415 399 465 470 412
Offers to out of county pupils
at Kent non-selective schools
 373 419 366 355 341
Offers to out of county pupils
at Kent schools
817 818 818 810 803
Offers to Kent pupils at OOC grammar schools  154 223 151 154 155
Offers to Kent pupils at OOC non-selective schools  265 280 291 323 305

 * Several figures inserted subsequently, as data became available

What can you do if you don't have a school of your choice?

As noted above, don't panic. 

So what next? If you are not awarded the school of your choice, then certainly go on the waiting list for every school you have applied for and still wish to consider. You have the right to appeal to any and every school for which you have been turned down. My article on 2019 appeals should be taken as guidance only but again, you will find the appeal outcomes for each individual Kent school here.   You will also find plenty of free advice in the appeals sections of this website at: Kent Grammar AppealsMedway Grammar Appeals; and Oversubscription Appeals. There is also copious grammar school appeal advice on the 11 plus Exams website, although it is not necessarily Kent specific and in any case often written for out of county candidates who have different expectations and perceptions, so be careful. 

Obviously, you should talk to your primary school headteacher, who should be able to offer advice and, if you are not sure of the school to which you have been allocated, ask for another visit, which is likely to be as an individual rather than with the crowd who were there on Open Day. 

 You also have the option of making a late application for a fresh school, called an In Year Application from 16th March in Kent, or go on any school’s waiting list after 22nd

April. Details here (page 18). You can apply for as many schools as you wish through this process.  Every year we see a considerable ‘churning’ effect as children take up places off waiting lists or win appeals at higher preferences, and some unhappy families remove themselves from the state system, all freeing up other places, so don't lose hope!

I regret I have retired from my Personal Appeals Service, being the only Kent and Medway appeals specialist until last year. I am afraid and am unable to respond to individual queries. However, I welcome comments and information about the allocation process and its consequences which I can report on for the benefit of all. 


Last modified on Sunday, 28 February 2021 07:36


  • Comment Link Saturday, 23 January 2021 18:11 posted by Avi

    Hi Peter,
    Thanks you for all the very useful information.
    I am interested to know if there is any published statistics on the number of rejections and reallocation of places in Dartford , Wilmington and Gravesend grammar schools in the past couple of years. PETER: Reallocation no. For rejection visit my Individual Information pages as proposed in the article.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 04 March 2020 10:30 posted by Bill

    Isn't the main point re Skinners' that for both 2019 and 2020 intakes that school's cut off was 360 whereas the base pass mark for the Kent Test moved from 321 for 2019 to 330 for 2020.

    This meant that for 2019, those eligible for Skinners' (before applying the distance radius) was any boy 39 marks above the pass mark, but for 2020, only 30 marks. This therefore increased overall the number of boys able to apply to Skinners' so that as a result, other things being equal those nearer to the school (compared with 2019) will be admitted. In other words, a lot of boys from Tunbridge Wells will have been admitted for 2020 who would not have done so in 2019 on the same score. PETER: Thank you Bill. You are of course correct, and I have added to the article accordingly.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 03 March 2020 22:57 posted by Claire Thompson

    So what is happening in Thanet. Peter, your excellent article on the Thanet school debacle does not mention grammar schools, and yet we have local grammar qualified children being sent to Royal Harbour. What sort of reward is that for all their hard work? It is a disgrace. PETER: I am not sure anyone saw this coming, but presumably Chatham & Clarendon and Dane Court have resisted KCC pressure to expand, for reasons they know best.It is no immediate consolation but I am sure they will have an excellent chance of success at appeal.

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 03 March 2020 11:38 posted by Amy

    'The proportion of successful first choices will always be deflated compared to comprehensive areas, with 42 families whose child has not passed the Kent Test still putting a grammar as first choice.' Is that figure right, the article says 1982 appeal? PETER: You are of course correct and I have amended the sentence

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