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Monday, 01 March 2021 05:30

Kent Secondary School Allocations for September 2021: Initial Information and Advice

Update: You will find more detailed and updated information on 2021 oversubscription and vacancies on the grammar school and non-selective school pages. 

Kent parents who applied online for secondary school places for their children are scheduled to receive decisions for 5 p.m. on Monday but, because of the large numbers, some usually come through an hour or more earlier, other families hear by post on Tuesday

As with so many aspects of education in this extraordinary year, the data for Kent secondary school allocations, out today, presents a different picture from previous years after Kent County Council chose not to delay the closing date for applications until after the deferred Kent Test results were released. Instead, they increased the number of choices on the application form from four to six. The major effect was that the number of children being offered their first choice school fell sharply from 14,095 to 12,736, or 10% of the total, reflecting the large number who placed a grammar school in first place but were then found non-selective. There was an increase of just 120 Kent pupils applying for secondary places out of a total of 18,273, with 845 being awarded none of their choices, although many of these did not use up all six.  

The number of out of county applicants offered places in Kent schools rose to 859, an increase of 5% over 2020 and the first significant increase for five years, although until I receive further data, I don’t at present know the reason for this. You will find the KCC Press Release here, along with much more information below, including a look at some of the likely pressure points, updated as they become apparent. You will also find required scores for super-selective schools inserted as I receive them (all information 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. Although there is no quick fix, up to a thousand more families will secure a preferred school over the next five months, through reallocation, appeals and late applications, also considered in a recent article here.

Please note that I no longer offer individual advice, although there is plenty below in this article, along with links to multiple relevant articles.

This article was written for first thing on Monday March 1st, National Secondary Allocation Day, and will be updated 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. I will provide more specific information and advice on individual schools as soon as KCC comes through with further details later this month. You may wish to consult last year’s allocation figures and analysis for grammar and non-selective (N/S) schools as an early guide. The data will also be posted on the Individual Schools Section which provides a profile of every secondary school in Kent, including last years admission appeals outcomes and other data up to date at the time of writing except for the 2021 individual allocations, which will be included as soon as I have them.

Kent County Council, unlike several other Local Authorities with grammar schools including Medway, chose not to delay the closing date for secondary school applications until after its revised Kent Test date,  merely contenting itself with increasing the number of secondary school choices available from four to six. In the event, I suspect that whilst the pattern of overall numbers differs considerably as shown in the following table, there was not much difference in the outcomes for individual children. 

The first table below sets out the pattern of applications and offers for Kent secondary schools over the past four years, the parallel article for 2020 applications being here. This shows that just 307 children were awarded their fifth or sixth choices (so was it really worth it?), and 845 were allocated a place by KCC because they were awarded none of their choices, a fall of 110 on 2020’s record figure. This figure is always inflated by some of these children only applying for a smaller number of popular schools, the Press Release identifying 65 families who only applied for popular grammar schools.    

 Kent Secondary School Allocations: March 2021
Kent pupils 2021 2020 2019 2018
No. of
No. of
No. of
No. of
Offered a first preference 12736 69.7% 14095 77.7%  14,201 79.1% 13,891 79.6%
Offered a second preference 2577 14.1% 2120 11.7%  2008 11.2% 1,937 11.1%
Offered a third preference 1247 6.82% 714 3.9%  691  3.9% 641 3.7%
Offered a fourth preference 561 3.07% 269 1.5%  222  1.2% 208 1.2%
Offered a 5th or 6th pref 307 1.68% Not Applicable
Allocated by Local Authority 845 4.62% 955 5.3% 837   4.7% 765 4.4%
Total of Kent pupils offered 18273   18153    17,959   17,442  
I consider the Press Release plea for ‘families to name the maximum number of schools they are able to (six this year, four during ‘normal’ years) on their application form as naming fewer will not increase the chances of being offered a school they want’ to be unrealistic as, for example, many families in rural parts of the county will not be able to access the full number of schools. Others may have private school as a back up if they are unsuccessful with their choices. 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 2020 here, and grammar schools here, for contrary to popular media myth there are always Kent grammars with vacancies on allocation in March. In 2020, there were six of these, nearly 20% of the total, although apart from the two Maidstone girls’ grammars all were in East Kent.
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. There will again be major difficulties in Thanet with 20% of the county’s Local Authority Allocations (LAA) being made annually to Hartsdown and Royal Harbouracademies as every other N/S school is heavily oversubscribed. There were no more than 1% overall vacancies for N/S schools in Ashford, Canterbury, Maidstone, and Sevenoaks in 2020, although again individual schools attracting large numbers of LAAs can distort take up tremendously. Please note that whilst some of the schools named in this section are unpopular year on year, this will reflect reputation, and not necessarily the quality of education on offer now. For example, I understand Ebbsfleet Academy is much improved since the departure of the previous headteacher. 

Whilst Canterbury had just two vacancies in 2020, the pressure was absorbed by Archbishop’s School with 66 LAAs. Unsurprisingly, Dartford managed solely as usual because Ebbsfleet Academy absorbed all those who couldn’t get into a Dartford town school. Maidstone had just two vacancies, with Cornwallis and New Line Learning academies absorbing 132 LAAs between them, although the new School of Science and Technology Maidstone opened in September will ease some of the pressure.  Sittingbourne has a considerable problem with non-selective places but, whilst again official data show there are vacancies in Swale, Oasis Academy Isle of Sheppey, on the island to the north of town, is the only local school to hold those. Meanwhile, Fulston Manor and Westlands were both in the top six oversubscribed schools in the county last year.  Tunbridge Wells will again be a pressure area for non-selective places although KCC believes otherwise, as it considers children placed at High Weald Academy in Cranbrook and Hayesbrook School in Tonbridge, acceptable alternatives, both with vacancies last year on top of their 101 LAAs.

The four Dartford grammar schools will also be heavily oversubscribed again, under pressure from London families as Dartford and Dartford Girls chase high scorers in the Kent Test, turning away 655 first choices between them last year, nearly half the total of grammar rejections in the county. These will include children living in the major Ebbsfleet expansion, who now need to look to Gravesend, whose two grammar schools are expanding to meet the need. The Kent Test results this year will see the forecast shift of successes from East of West of the County make an impact, as it made no concessions to the damage to the education of children from less affluent families caused by coronavirus lockdowns and other handicaps.  This will surely increase the pressure on each of the seven West Kent grammars but see more vacancies elsewhere. The other main hot spot is likely once again to be Herne Bay/Whitstable for boys, who may need to look towards Borden, as Queen Elizabeth’s in Faversham and Simon Langton Boys’ in Canterbury are perennially popular. I anticipate that last year’s pressure on the two Thanet grammars will ease, with the lower pass rate for East Kent primary schools in the Kent Test. 

Super Selective Scores
I shall record pass scores for the Super Selective Schools: Dartford and Dartford Girls; Judd; Skinners; and Tonbridge; as I learn them, over the next few days. You will find the 2020 data here, or on the Individual Schools pages. 
Tonbridge Grammar: Area places (applicants living in Tonbridge & Malling, Tunbridge Wells and Sevenoaks): 379 (distance tiebreaker 7.763 miles); Governor places (applicants living outside the above areas): 402 (distance tiebreaker 18.267 miles)
The Judd School:  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 387 (2020: 385) with the outer area being 408 (407) (not all students on those scores being offered a place).
The Skinners' School: 140 places have been offered to those living in the West Kent Area. Currently, the furthest place offered is 2.418 miles straight line distance from the school (not including siblings or those in receipt of Pupil Premium). 20 places have been offered to those living in the Outer Area using the same criteria. 
Dartford Grammar 381 in area, 401 out of area. 
Dartford  Grammar School for Girls: 369 in area, 396 out of area. 
Out of County Applicants (OOC)
Last year just 415 out of the 2768 OOC children who passed the Kent Test were offered places at Kent grammar schools, and it is likely this figure will have declined even further, by the time those children started secondary school in September, as more attractive opportunities presented themselves, and with many candidates simply using the Test as a practice for elsewhere. This year the number of passes has risen by a further 298. However, whilst the latest data shows a rise of 42 in the number of OOC children offered places in Kent schools, I don’t yet know the breakdown between grammar and N/S schools.

Once again, over a third of the grammar places, 157, were offered last year by the two Dartford Grammar Schools. It is very easy to look for headlines, and the media often do in this area but, for example in 2020, 140 of around 160  Medway children taking up places in Kent schools went to non-selective schools.  

Out of County Applicants to Kent Secondary Schools 2018-21
Year 2021 2020  2019 2018
Out of county applicants 3991 3517 3514 3,289
Offers to out of county pupils
at Kent grammar schools
*  415 399 465
Offers to out of county pupils
at Kent non-selective schools
*  373 419 366
Offers to out of county pupils
at Kent schools
859 817 818 818
Offers to Kent pupils at OOC grammar schools *  154 223 151
Offers to Kent pupils at OOC non-selective schools *  265 280 291

 * I will include these figures when I receive them. 

 What can you do if you don't have a school of your choice?
As noted above, don't panic. . I have recently written an article providing information and advice on appeals and late applications to schools in this strangest of years.

So in summary, 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. The starting point to obtaining an appeal form is here. My article on 2020 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.

 You also have the option of making a late application for a fresh school, called an In Year Application from 15th March in Kent, or go on any school’s waiting list after 21st 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 and am unable to respond about individual situations. 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, 17 October 2021 07:42

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