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Thursday, 04 June 2020 16:01

Kent Primary Schools: Oversubscription & Vacancies 2020


There has been a small increase for the third year running in the number of pupils being allocated places in Kent Primary Reception Classes . Places for the additional 163 children were met by three new schools opening in September along with creating 67 more permanent and temporary places in current schools. Two of the new schools are in the Ebbsfleet area of North Kent: Ebbsfleet Green Primary opening for 30 pupils in each of Years R, One and Two; and Springhead Park Primary, in Northfleet, admitting 60 pupils in Year R, and unusually also accepting pupils for Years One to Four (see below for possible reason).   Bearsted Primary Academy in Maidstone is opening for 60 Year R children. None of these schools are currently part of the Kent Coordinated Admission Procedure, as all three accept applications directly, as is usual with new schools.

St Johns Weavering 1st     Brent Outstanding   2019

The tightest part of the county is again West Dartford with just nine spaces in two of its 12 schools, closely followed by urban Sevenoaks, with eight spaces in one school out of six. The most oversubscribed primary school is St John’s CofE in Maidstone, turning away 55 first choices (up from 37 in 2019); The Brent, Dartford, 44 (last year’s most popular school,  disappointing 86 families); followed by: Riverhead Infants, Sevenoaks (40);  Great Chart, Ashford (39); Sussex Road, Tonbridge (37) and Wentworth, also West Dartford (33). The last three named are newcomers to the most oversubscribed list along with Chilton, Ramsgate,all having leapt in popularity this year.

Special mention must go to two schools that have both travelled from high vacancy rates to being full, following Ofsted Special Measures to being Good. Brenzett CofE Primary, Ashford,  has shot from having the highest percentage vacancy rate in Kent of 75% in 2019, to being full for its 21 places in 2020. Kings Farm Primary, Gravesend is oversubscribed for the first time ever after gaining the sixth best KS2 progress grades in the county.                                                                        

Eight schools have 60% or more of their places empty. One school accounted for 10% of the 457 Local Authority Allocations in Kent, up by 10 on 2019. 

I look at the issues in more detail below, including a survey of each separate District and also allocations for Junior Schools. You will find advice on what to do if you do not have the school or your choice below, here, and the reality of primary school appeals here

The total number of children offered places in Kent reception classes on allocation in April 2020 is 17,534, up by 163 on 2019’s 17371, but still lower than the peak of 18,066 of 2016.

The  Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent 2020-2024 provides an official view of the current situation and future planning requirements for Kent and is broadly consistent with this article for 2020 provision. 

This annual report is the longest article I write in the year and will become one of the most visited in time. The parallel 2019 article has now received 15,591 visits at the time of writing. Please let me know of any errors or areas that need expansion. You will find Ofsted outcomes for all schools in the Individual Schools section, and a survey of 2019-20 outcomes to Lockdown here.

KCC has a target of securing 5% vacancies in each District, but the norm is that this often hides a sharp distinction between different areas such as rural and urban, and so I have separated these below. There is also a stated preference for schools to have two forms of entry (60 children), although this is under ever increasing pressure as more places need to be provided. 

Lowest Kent Primary School
District Vacancy Percentage 2020
Dartford West 1%
Sevenoaks Urban  2%
Sittingbourne  4%
Maidstone Urban* 5%
Gravesham Rural
Northfleet  7% 
Tunbridge Wells  7% 

 * Including 60 additional places outside the system at Bearsted Primary Academy. 

At the other end of the scale, the schools in the villages in Folkestone and Hythe District have, together with Hythe itself, 23% of their places empty overall, six over a third empty. However, there is the remarkable success story here of Brenzett CofE, regularly a failing school under KCC control with one of the county’s highest vacancy rates annually as a consequence, 75% in 2019. Brenzett has completely filled its 21 Reception places for 2020 as an Academy under the Diocese of Canterbury Academies Trust. 

School District
First Choices
St John's CofE Primary  Maidstone 60  55 37 
Brent Primary
44 86
Riverhead Infant Sevenoaks 90  40 14 
Great Chart Primary  Ashford 60 39 54
Sussex Road  Tonbridge 60  37
Wentworth  Dartford 90  33
St Joseph's Catholic  Gravesham 39  32 27 
Chilton  Thanet 60  31
East Borough Primary Maidstone  60 30 46
Slade Primary Tonbridge 60 30 32
Whilst the pattern of the most popular schools changes each year, two of the four most oversubscribed schools, The Brent and Great Chart, were also there in 2018 and 2019 and along with East Borough are the only Kent schools to have been in the top ten most oversubscribed schools for the past  three years. St Joseph's Catholic, which is the only school in this list turning away more first choices than its total intake, has been here before, topping the Kent table in 2013.  

The level of oversubscription of a school can be strongly influenced by at least  two factors out of its control. Firstly, is the matter of siblings who are generally given priority. A classic case was at Singlewell Primary in 2015, when 25 out of 30 places were awarded to siblings and the catchment distance shrunk to 200 yards. Secondly variation in the number of children living in small villages can produce a considerable effect on intake, although families will still send their children some distance, and I am aware of a number of traditional routes of this nature.

I also look at the KS2 performance table, and  Ofsted performance where these may be relevant to parental preferences, below. 

 Local Authority Allocations
The number of children with no school of their choice has risen by 10 this year to 457 with one school accounting for 10% of these. Whilst most will be sad stories, some issues will be resolved as children drop out and waiting lists gather up other children, so that the final figure will be significantly lower. One reason for churning is because, especially in the West of the county, some families have their eyes on particular popular schools and go private if unsuccessful. Some will follow that route anyway. Other families will have made an unrealistic set of choices and now need to settle for a less popular school. 

The Districts surveyed are:

Page 3 - AshfordCanterbury (including Whitstable and Herne Bay); CranbrookDartford

Page 4 – Dover Deal & SandwichFaversham; Folkestone & HytheGraveshamMaidstone

Page 5 -Malling (including Kings Hill); SevenoaksSheppey; SittingbourneSwanley

Page 6 -ThanetTonbridge;Tunbridge WellsJunior Schools; Not Offered the School of Your Choice; Appeals

Individual academies are denoted (A) and schools set up as Free Schools (F).

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 Next: Individual Schools in Ashford; Canterbury (including Whitstable and Herne Bay); Cranbrook; Dartford.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 21 June 2022 05:53

1 comment

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 08 July 2020 10:46 posted by TRACEY BOANAS

    I am disappointed to see no mention of the improvement in numbers for Dunton Green Primary school in Sevenoaks,
    up from 14 in 2017 to 30 in 2020. I joined the school in June 2017 (after the allocations) School awarded good in July 2018 after being double RI.PETER: the increase was in 2019 which I missed when the school was full and slightly oversubscribed. It is obviously doing well. The improvement gets a mention in my Primary Ofsted Report 2017-18.

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