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Friday, 20 March 2020 06:15

Oversubscription & Vacancies Kent Non-Selective Secondary Schools 2020


This article looks in some detail at the allocation of secondary school places in Kent for September 2020. Particular themes are: the pressure on places in Ashford, Canterbury, Gravesham, Sevenoaks and Tunbridge Wells; the increased polarisation of choices, especially in Dover, Sittingbourne and Thanet; and the provision or otherwise of new schools to meet rising pupil numbers. For unexplained reasons, Kent County Council is no longer taking planned housing into account when considering future provision. This decision will inevitably create further pressures in years to come. 

Valley Park 2 

The four most oversubscribed schools are the same as in the two previous years, again led by Valley Park, Maidstone, which turned down 172 first choices. It is followed by King Ethelbert and St George’s CofE in Thanet, then Fulston Manor in Sittingbourne.  There are 494 vacancies across 17 schools, over half of which are in just four, headed up by Folkestone Academy with 86, way ahead of Oasis Isle of Sheppey (66); Astor College (63); and High Weald Academy (54)There were 938 Local Authority Allocations (LAA) which refer to Kent children offered schools they did not apply for. Royal Harbour and Oasis Isle of Sheppey academies each had over a hundred LAAs. Three schools have seen their number of first choices increase by more than 50, headed by two Swale Academy Trust Schools: Whitstable with 86 & Sittingbourne 55, followed by Knole Academy with 51. Going the other way were: St George's Broadstairs losing 62 first choices (but still third most oversubscribed school in Kent); Mascalls (59) and Trinity (50)  

I look more closely below at the situation in each District, along with the most oversubscribed schools and those with most vacancies, together with the impact of out of county offers. 

This annual survey of Kent non-selective places is the second largest article I produce each year (the largest is the parallel survey of primary school allocations). I am happy to accept there may be corrections or expansions needed, together with helpful comments, which I will incorporate if these are pointed out. 

This article follows on from my initial survey of 2020 allocations, containing further data at Kent Secondary allocations.You will find the equivalent article here for 2019 allocations. Please note that it is written for and read by a number of different audiences, so not all may be of interest or relevance for families. 

You will find my initial and more general thoughts here, with the parallel article on grammar schools for 2019 here (2020 to follow) and 2020 Medway schools grammar and non-selectiveA net total of 162 additional places have been created to meet a rise of 149 in the number of pupils offered Kent schools. This leaves 494 vacancies, or 3.5% of the total. 

The new Maidstone School of Science and Technology, opening in September, has offered 180 further places (together with holding a waiting list) which are not included in these figures as the school is not yet part of the Kent admissions scheme. This may pose an existential threat to two other Maidstone schools.

I look at individual Districts further down the article, with direct links at: 

Page 2: AshfordCanterburyDartford

Page 3: Dover, Deal & SandwichFolkestone and HytheGravesham

Page 4: MaidstoneSevenoaksSwale

Page 5: ThanetTonbridge & MallingTunbridge Wells

The table below lists all Kent schools oversubscribed by more than 50 first choices. Valley Park School in Maidstone continues its dominance of the table with two others in the top six -King Ethelbert and St George's -  in Thanet, and another two - Fulston Manor and Westlands -  in Sittingbourne. The final school in this group, Knole Academy, goes from strength to strength under its new headteacher. 

Last year there was just one new arrival in the list of schools oversubscribed by more than fifty places, this year there are four:  Wye and John Wallis, reflecting the major development of Ashford, Stone Lodge, the new school in Dartford, and Hillview Girls in Tonbridge. Two have gone, Charles Dickens in Thanet, and St Anselm’s in Canterbury. In one sense I am describing a misleading picture as, for some of these schools their popularity is increased by a desire to avoid another school with perceived difficulties, as explained below.  Some commentators seek to criticise such parents for chasing popular schools, but the reality is often very different.  


The picture will change from now until September, successful grammar school appeals taking children out of the sector and creating a ripple effect as children move up to preferred schools through re-allocation where places have been freed. In addition, some of these schools also admit significant numbers of additional children on appeal (but see below), those at the other end of the scale suffering even further.The Individual School section contains relevant detail here.

Most Oversubscribed Kent Non Selective Schools  2020
1st Choices
Turned Down
Valley Park 270 418 172  59 5
King Ethelbert 158* 279 144 37 5
St George's CofE
217 328 129 65 2
Fulston Manor 210 320 121  76  6
Knole 255* 287 100 2 0
Westlands 330 369 96 52 51
Maplesden Noakes 210 253 88 45 6
Bennett Memorial 300 350 85 39 3
Saint George's CofE
210* 268 83 31 22
Wye 96** 165 82 10 5
Meopham 170 233 76 39 29
Herne Bay 272* 329 68 19 14
Hillview 240* 263 64 0 0
John Wallis 240* 279 59 6 5
St John's Catholic 195 222 59 18 2
Stone Lodge 120 172 59 0 0
Trinity Free 181 207  56   22  7
Brockhill Park 256 276 54 19 1
Notes: *  School with Increase in Places 2019 - 2020
                  ** School with Decrease in Places 2019-2020
You will find my main article on the 2019 appeals outcomes here. I have included the appeal data for 2019 for each Kent secondary school in the Individual Schools section of this website as a guide to the potential challenge facing parents who wish to appeal. However, you will see from the data over recent years that whilst the pattern of outcomes for some schools is fairly constant others can change sharply, often as a result of some change in the school circumstances. At the time of writing I have no idea of the nature of the school appeals process for 2020 entry because of Covid-19 issues, and have written an article exploring this here
The table below includes all schools that have more than 40% of their places empty upon secondary allocation before KCC placed Local Authority Allocated Children (LAAs), who are children offered no school of their choice, are counted in them. Apart from Holmesdale, which has had a torrid time over the past few years, but is now much improved under the management of Swale Academies, and Ebbsfleet Academy, all appear in my table of low performing GCSE scorers. The work of the Swale Trust which has turned round Meopham, The North, and Whitstable, along with multiple primary schools all to a Good or Outstanding level from Ofsted, and all previously KCC failed or struggling and schools that have previously appeared in this table, is remarkable. 

The polarisation referred to in my introduction continues apace, as can be seen by comparison of the table below with the equivalent 2018 article, and the District surveys below. The latter article listed just seven schools with a vacancy rate of more than a third before LAAs are added in. Now there are eleven with 40% or more vacancies. I have chosen the 40% cut off this time round because the next school in the 2020 list was a long way down from this level, with just 23% empty spaces before LAAs were taken into account. All the seven schools in the 2018 list are also in the current one.

 The final column, '% Loss 2019' looks back to 2019 data. Here I have compared the March allocation figure with the number of Year Seven children who actually turned up, according to the October 2019 school census. It is no coincidence that the six schools with the highest percentage losses are all in that 2018 table of vacancies. The losses will have come from children taking up places at preferred schools where vacancies have developed (or in some cases private schools) together with an indeterminate number leaving for Home Education, rather than send their children to these schools.

A school’s finances are based primarily on the number of pupils in the school and my articles through the years have identified half a dozen secondary schools that have been forced to close through lack of numbers, most recently Pent Valley School, Hextable Academy and Chaucer Technology School. I can see two further schools that I consider are at risk.     

 High Weald 150 96 55 57% 32 42%
Royal Harbour 300 251 106 53% 70 18%
Holmesdale 180 155 73 53% 70 37%
Hayesbrook 151 133 54 49% 56 45%
NLL 180 180 84 47% 84 33%
Astor 210 147 90 46% 34 -10%
Hartsdown 180 179 65 44% 78 18%
Oasis Sheppey 390 324 161 43% 101 17%
Archbishop's 170 166 71 41% 66 33%
Folkestone 270 184 127 40% 23 4%
Ebbsfleet 150 121 67 40% 31 41%
Note:* This is the percentage loss between allocation in March 2019 and take up in October 2019 according to the Kent census. 
Brook Learning Trust
I have a considerable concern for the children of the Brook Learning Trust and its three secondary schools, Ebbsfleet Academy, Hayesbrook School, and High Weald Academy, whose misfortunes I have followed for some years, notably here.  Last year, these three schools each had by some way the highest losses of children in Kent between Allocation and the following October School Census. They are also three of the four Kent schools having the lowest number of first preferences in Kent. Whilst Hayesbrook and High Weald feature amongst the lowest performing Kent schools at GCSE in 2019, Hayesbrook having been one of the highest just a few years ago, Ebbsfleet also had a bad year in 2019. The Brook Learning Trust also provided the ‘school support’ for Holmesdale School on its downward spiral two years ago.
Brook Learning Trust Schools
  1st Prefs* LAAs
Vacancy Rate
on Allocation
Fallout rate:
Allocation to
Census 2019
Hayesbrook 54 56 12% 45%
High Weald 55 32 19% 42%
Ebbsfleet 67 31 36% 41%

* Hartsdown Academy came third in this list separating the Brook schools, with just 65 first choices. 

I have written critically about the Brook Trust before, it is clearly still in considerable trouble and is the subject of a further article in progress.

 District Survey

SINCE 2019
Ashford 1301 3 0 0 62
Canterbury 1222 57 1 4 84
Dartford 1235 15 2 32 83
Dover** 958 43 1 63 34
Folkestone & Hythe 886 0 1 86 23
Gravesham 1129 29 2 21 59
Maidstone 1405 0 1 6 132
Sevenoaks 565 20 0 0 17
Swale 1410 45 1 66 116
Thanet 1237 79 2 50 187
Tunbridge & Malling 1325 -11 3 46 143
Tunbridge Wells 1140 -30 2 55 32

 ** Excluding Duke of York's Royal Military School (Boarding only)

Out Of County Movement
Patterns of cross border movements are very similar to 2019, with around 400 children from outside Kent being offered places in Kent non-selective schools, and around 265 from Kent being offered places outside the county (I cannot be precise because KCC does not release figures of less than five for individual schools).  The main traffic is (approximately) between: Medway (110 in, 41 out); Bromley (85 in, 21 out); East Sussex (70 in, 68 out); Bexley (70 in, 50 out); and Surrey (5 in, 62 out).
Kent schools which have more than five children offered places from outside the county are (together with the corresponding figure for 2019, totalling around 420):
Homewood 56 (all bar one from East Sussex, 55); Knole Academy 52 (50 from Bromley, 64); Bennett 41 (39 from East Sussex, 40); St Simon Stock 31 (29 from Medway, 16); Wilmington Academy 25 (all from Bexley, 37); Leigh Academy 24 (20 from Bexley, 15); Holmesdale 22 (all from Medway, 23); Dartford Sci &Tech 17 (all from Bexley, 13); St John's Catholic 17 (all from Medway, 13); Trinity 15 (14 from Bromley, 11); Inspiration Leigh UTC (14, 9 from Bexley, 5); Aylesford 10 (all from Medway, 22); Malling 10 (all from Medway,6); St George’s CofE (all from Medway,6); Meopham 8 (all from Medway,9); St Gregory’s Catholic 8 (all from East Sussex,10).  

Kent children having been offered Out of County Non-Selective Places (around 280 in 2019): Bexley 69 (St Catherine's Catholic 19, Haberdasher's Aske's Crayford Academy 15, St Columba's Catholic Boys' 10, Blackfen Girls, 6, 2019 - 53);  Bromley 14 (2019-21); East Sussex 61 (Uplands 44, Beacon 7, Robertsbridge 6,  2019 -68); Medway 59 (Greenacre 16, Rainham Girls 9, Howard 7,  2019 -41); Surrey 37 (Oxted 35, 2019 -62).

Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent
KCC explains this as:
The Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent is a 5 year rolling plan which we update annually. The 2020 to 2024 version shows how we will make sure there are:
  • enough high quality education places
  • places located in the right areas
  • places for all learners.

 Unfortunately, whilst the three points above may well be aims for KCC, my District Survey below shows that there is considerable shortfall in the first two of these. I appreciate this section may not be of interest to most of my readers, so please follow the link to read on. 

 District Survey
On the following pages I explore each of Kent''s 12 Local Authority Districts
You may wish to look at the parallel entry for 2019 admissions as this contains some information I have not repeated. 

You will find full data for each school in the Individual Schools Section of this website. Currently, the large data bank is up to date, although commentary is lagging behind in a few cases where indicated (update in progress, or on request).

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Last modified on Monday, 14 June 2021 17:00


  • Comment Link Thursday, 23 April 2020 08:36 posted by Rachel

    Are grammar appeals often successful? PETER: Read my website article: Kent and Medway School Appeal Outcomes 2019.Spend some time exploring the site, you will find answers to all your question somewhere, using the search engine or links. The Individual Schools section on the RHS of this page provides you with all the appeal data you need.

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 22 April 2020 23:39 posted by Rachel

    I am 8th on knoles waiting list... is this positive? I have also put in an appeal PETER: No promises but you should get there after the grammar school appeals.

  • Comment Link Friday, 03 April 2020 05:14 posted by Stargazer

    KCC is mad not to plan for future hosing developments. Covid-19 or not, the houses are coming.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 28 March 2020 04:42 posted by Emily W.

    Peter, We applied for Trinity as our first choice, Hillview Girls second, and were offered Knole third. Yet you report 100 first choices turned down at Knole with popularity soaring, and 56 at Trinity with popularity falling. What is going on? PETER: All in order I am afraid. The system is complicated but logical. It first of all produces a list for each school in order for all those who have expressed a preference. Then it offers you a place at your highest preference school for which you are eligible. Then takes you out of any lower preferences and repeats the exercise to see anyone now gets a higher preference. It keeps doing this until it has (is) exhausted all the possibilities. You had a stronger case at Knole than Trinity, which only gives fewer than 90 'Open Places' to those who live nearest without a faith or other priority, so the distance cut off will be close. Knole has increased massively in popularity since the previous head left, but still offers nearly all of its 255 places on distance grounds which go out further, and you had a better claim here. Still complicated I know, but as fair as can be.

  • Comment Link Friday, 27 March 2020 23:24 posted by Dover Girl

    What has happened in Dover? You report two schools oversubscribed, when last year there were none. We didn't get into St Edmund's or Christ Church. We are not Catholic but its the best school. We have been given Astor. PETER: Where they came from I am not sure, but there are an extra 84 children in the three Dover schools. Some may have come up from Folkestone, some from towards Deal as Goodwin Academy is also oversubscribed for the first time, and there is enormous pressure in Canterbury schools. I suspect you stand a good chance on appeal or off the waiting list at Dover Christ Church at least, but go for both.

  • Comment Link Friday, 27 March 2020 16:17 posted by Despairing Thanet Parent

    We are Thanet parents whose daughter has been offered Hartsdown after being rejected from all our four choices. We are in despair. Home Education is all wrong for us and we haven't got the background anyway. We can't afford private. Please give us some good advice. PETER: Sadly, I am afraid have little for you or any others of the 100+ families in the same situation. It is trite to say you will have to put up with it and hope the school is improving - I hear various claims that things are changing. What I think is important is that your daughter is given some encouragement about the school by you somehow.
    I just wish there was something else I could say.

  • Comment Link Friday, 27 March 2020 12:40 posted by MSST parent in waiting

    Are you suggesting that Maidstone Schol of Science and Technology may not open in September. PETER: The construction industry is closing down for the time being. There must be a risk unless the project is past the critical date. I have merely asked the question and am waiting for a reassuring reply

  • Comment Link Friday, 27 March 2020 12:36 posted by Seeker after Knowledge

    So which is the worst Academy Trust in Kent, Turner Schools or Brook Learning Trust?
    PETER: There were worse - Lilac Sky and SchoolsCompany, both corrupt, but both closed down by government. These are both small Trusts: Brook - three secondary schools; Turner - two secondary and two primary. There have been others, TKAT appears to have got its act together, but nothing springs to mind. I would go for Turner Schools on the scale of its misrepresentations and false claims about its awful performance.

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