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Friday, 20 March 2020 06:15

Oversubscription & Vacancies Kent Non-Selective Secondary Schools 2020


You will find data on allocations, appeals and academic performance, for each school in the Individual Schools Section of this website. Currently, the large data bank is up to date, although the commentary is lagging behind in a few cases where indicated (update in progress, or on request).
The situation regarding Maidstone is difficult to call this year as the new Maidstone School  of Science & Technology (MSST) is due to open in September, taking 180 children out of the system. Like all new schools, MSST is not part of the Kent co-ordinated admission system in its first year, and applications go directly to it. Its popularity is such that it is also running a waiting list. Even with the growth in the town, its intake will inevitably cause enormous damage to the numbers elsewhere as children take up a place at the school, leaving vacancies elsewhere.Currently, all but two schools are strongly oversubscribed, ranging from Valley Park, by some way the most oversubscribed non-selective school in Kent with 172 disappointed first choices, through to Lenham School with 26. All these three schools are run by Valley Invicta Academy Trust who took over Lenham then in Special Measures, from KCC, just two years ago and have transformed it in the eyes of families.

When MSST opens, the children it draws from other schools will create a churning effect, as children move up to fill gaps opening in the more popular schools. This inevitably reaches through to the two schools at risk, Cornwallis and New Line Learning academies, both run by the Future Schools Trust. These two schools have 132 Local Authority Allocations between them. The only six vacancies currently in Maidstone are at Cornwallis which does not appear in the above county vacancy list, but still has 21% empty spaces before LAAs, at present. The problem is exacerbated by the annual high number of successful appeals at the four Maidstone grammar schools which last year absorbed 187 further children. These are drawn mainly from the same two schools after trickle down. The KCC Commissioning Plan for Maidstone non-selective places forecast there would be a surplus of 607 places in September 2020 after MSST came on line. This is a figure larger than the total capacity of Cornwallis and New Line Learning academies! 

For the third year running, the three schools have no vacancies between them. The main difference is that Knole Academy, under a new headteacher, has seen its number of first choices leap by over 50 children, with 100 being turned away, making this one of the most popular schools in Kent. The 250 places offered include 50 from Bromley, down from 62 in 2019. Trinity School  has lost out because of this,  with its number of first choices falling sharply by 50, but the school still has 56 first choices rejected, giving Sevenoaks two schools in the most oversubscribed table. Orchards Academy also filled, but with the aid of the 17 local LAAs.
The Kent Schools Commissioning Plan records that:
The increasing pressure showing in Sittingbourne is exacerbated by large numbers of pupils travelling off the Isle of Sheppey for their secondary education.
Surplus capacity in Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy will help to offset some of the deficit in Sittingbourne.

Unfortunately, this hardly touches the issue of the large number of Sheppey families trying to avoid Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey (OAIOS). These, along with families, often to the south of the town, who would have looked to Fulston Manor are desperately seeking schools on the mainland but instead themselves part of the 101 Local Authority Allocations at OAIOS (second highest figure in Kent and over 30 more than ever before). This still left the school with 66 vacancies, also the second highest figure in Kent. Each year when I was offering individual professional advice, I received enquiries from large numbers of these families at their wits end and refusing to consider Oasis with its awful reputation. Only last week I took a phone call from a professional who told me about the large number of reports of bullying at the school which they received. I am not convinced any of these families will find the KCC view acceptable.

Not surprisingly Fulston Manor and Westlands schools in Sittingbourne are both in the top six most oversubscribed N/S schools in Kent, although last year they took very different routes through the appeal process. The Fulston Manor Appeal Panel has not upheld more than seven cases (one per class) in the past six years at least, so the successes will be very special cases.  Westlands upheld 51 out of 52 appeals, but may of course go down a different route this year. The problem has reached crisis levels, with KCC's estimated shortage of  144 Year Seven non-selective  places in Sittingbourne next year, rising to 192 in 2023. The Commissioning Plan recognises there will need to be another six forms of entry in 2023, but puts through no solution. Some years ago, a new school was proposed, but there is now no mention of this. Oasis saw a fall of 51 potential Year Seven children between allocation and the October school census last year. The decline in Oasis numbers has seen the school mothball one of its two sites, but for how long. Reopening surely cannot be the solution to the coming crisis, but where is there an alternative for those 192 children  Some families desperate enough to avoid the school home educate with around 150 families on the Island trying this at present! This should not be happening. Girls might like to try Rainham School for Girls in Medway.

The Sittingbourne School saw the second highest increase in first choices in the county, at 55 taking it to 21 first choices oversubscribed. It still did not appear to have any appeals last year, and Abbey School, Faversham, which is slowly losing out in popularity to the much improved Whitstable, just filled. 

Last modified on Monday, 14 June 2021 17:00


  • 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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