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Thursday, 04 June 2020 16:01

Kent Primary Schools: Oversubscription & Vacancies 2020


Across Ashford town, the pressure on places has eased with a slight fall in numbers of reception children for 2020, the two new schools having settled in with  Chilmington Green (F) reducing the pressure on nearby Great Chart, and Finberry (F) expanding already from 30 to 60 places. Both of these have vacancies as they await local housing developments to catch up, along with eight others of the 20 local schools. Most oversubscribed is Great Chart as always, turning away 39 first choices (down from 54 in 2019), followed by St Mary’s CofE, which has shot up in popularity with 22 unsuccessful first choices. The other school that has seen its number of disappointed first choices increase sharply is Repton Manor, up to 13, close to another of the new housing developments around Ashford,

Across the District there were just 21 Local Authority Allocations well down on the 55 of 2019.

Outside the town, just five of the 21 schools are mildly oversubscribed, led by Aldington and Wittersham turning away six first choices. Bethersden has turned away a pupil for the first time in years, with 35% of its 20 places empty in 2019.

Lady Joanna Thornhill, in Wye, has seen a sharp fall in popularity dropping from 57 first preferences to 37, leaving the school with 19 vacancies, although I have no indication of why. It has had three consecutive Outstanding Ofsted Inspections, and average KS2 results. Six other schools also have over a quarter of their places empty.

There were 33 fewer pupils offered places in the 36 Canterbury primary schools for 2020 than in 2019,  with just 39 Local Authority Allocations and no school having more than five of these.

As in previous years, the popularity of the nine city schools is heavily polarised, with four schools oversubscribed, led this year by St Thomas’ Catholic School with 24 first preferences not offered, and one of the highest proportions of first choices per place in the county at 180%. It is followed by St Stephen’s Infants with 17. Wincheap Foundation Primary’s popularity appears to have collapsed, falling from 33 first choices turned away in 2019, to three this year.

The five other schools have 79 vacancies amongst them, Parkside having improved its intake to 50% full, following much improved KS2 results (including Writing Well Above Average, although it was amongst worst in Kent in 2018) at the expense of Pilgrims Way (A)  going the other way, the area having suffered from receiving a large London overspill population over the past few years. As a result the only school due for expansion is  Pilgrims Way due for expansion in 2021 as explained here.  

There is a quite remarkable shift in parental choices in the rural hinterland, which has seen a fall of 26 in the number of children being offered school places, to 2020’s 351. In 2019, there were two heavily oversubscribed schools in Blean and Bridge & Patrixbourne CofE, also the top two in 2018, along with another five oversubscribed schools. For 2020, choices appear to have fallen much more equally amongst the 12 schools, with Blean oversubscribed by 13 first choices (down by 18), Barham 10, whilst Bridge & Patrixbourne did not fill.  The only other oversubscribed school is Wickhambreaux with two disappointed first choices.

Although numbers are up along the coastal strip, there is still plenty of capacity, with just two of the nine schools oversubscribed, Herne CofE Infants 26 disappointed first choices, and Hampton 10. The only other school that filled was St Alphege CofE Infant, which had 24 vacancies in 2019.

Cranbrook and Weald
This is technically part of Tunbridge Wells District, but the mainly rural locations of the twelve schools means it has a very different character from the urban area.

As in previous years Goudhurst & Kilndown CofE is significantly oversubscribed as usual with its Outstanding Ofsted, although disappointing KS2 results by its own standard in 2019. With 14 first choices turned down, it has almost been caught up this year by Benenden Primary, benefitting from its complete rebuild last September, disappointing 12 first choices whereas in 2019 it didn’t quite fill. In all, seven of the 12 schools oversubscribed.

A new school, St Andrew’s CofE (F) had been planned for Paddock Wood, but has been put on hold because numbers didn’t hold up. The correctness of this decision is underlined by applications for Paddock Wood (A) with 21 of its 90 places unfilled this year, down from 4 vacancies in 2019.

The demand for Primary places continues to increase consistently, due to housing, higher birth rates, and migration. A deficit of places is forecast across all primary planning groups for the 2021-22 intake.’ (Commissioning Plan)

West Dartford is one of the tightest areas in Kent with only 1% of vacancies. It will be even tighter next year unless extra accommodation is found. This is in spite of the new River Mill Primary (F) joining the Kent Co-ordinated admission scheme for the first year and taking in 60 children  (it admitted 30 children in both Year R and Year 1 directly for 2019).

The most oversubscribed school is Wentworth (A) with 33 disappointed first choices, having shot up from just three in 2019, in spite of its below average KS2 performance measures. It is followed by St Anselm’s Catholic with 19 and Joyden’s Wood Infant (A) with 10 first choices turned away. The latter had 11 of the 12 vacancies in West Dartford in 2019, the transformation in outcomes again having no obvious reason.

Biggest loser is of course Dartford Bridge (A), which had 33 first choices turned away after news of its Special Measures Ofsted broke in 2019, but even then has four disappointed first choices this year. The other loser is Westgate, although it is also just full, having had 21 first choices losing out in 2019. The three schools with vacancies are Temple Hill (23, out of 120 places) Holy Trinity CofE (three) and Wilmington (A), six, although with inward migration and rising rolls in the District many of these will have vanished by September.

The East of the District is naturally dominated by the growth of Ebbsfleet Garden City.  Another new school, Ebbsfleet Green Primary (F), is opening in September with applications made directly to the school outside the Kent co-ordinated admissions scheme. Unfortunately, delays to the building programme have led to temporary premises being adopted nine miles away from the permanent site.  It will join Cherry Orchard Primary Academy (F) opened in 2018, currently oversubscribed by 20 first choices, many of whom will presumably transfer to the new school in September.  The next new school at Alkerden is due to arrive in 2022, which will be part of an all-through school. Three other schools of the 16 in the area are significantly oversubscribed, headed up by The Brent (A), the second most oversubscribed school in Kent, turning away 44 first choices, although this number has fallen from the 86 of 2019 to lose its top spot, presumably as families become more realistic.  Nearby Gateway (A) with 28 disappointed, and its excellent KS2 results last summer, also continues to be very popular. Craylands with 14 oversubscribed presumably benefits from the continued unpopularity of Knockhall (A), recently looked at here following its Requires Improvement Ofsted inspection, but which has seen its vacancy rate leap to 53% of its 90 places in spite of eight Local Authority Allocations,  one of the highest percentages in Kent.

Out in the local villages, Bean Primary still struggles to attract pupils in spite of its Good Ofsted, up from RI, published just before applications closed, with 14 of its 30 places vacant.

Next: Dover, Deal & Sandwich; Faversham; Folkestone & Hythe; Gravesham; Maidstone 

Last modified on Sunday, 21 March 2021 12:41

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