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Sunday, 11 April 2021 19:53

Oversubscription & Vacancies: Kent Non-Selective Schools 2021


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, including full information on allocation figures, is being brought up to date, with commentary lagging behind by a few months (but can be brought up to date on request).

Folkestone and Hythe
The two Folkestone non-selective schools, Folkestone Academy (FA) and the new Turner Free School, are both run by the appalling Turner Schools academy trust, so children have no local alternative. The search engine of this website will lead you to multiple other articles. The decision to expand Turner Free School by 60 places to 180 in 2019 hit FA badly, and it continues to have a high number of vacancies, eased by having all the District’s 51 LAAs placed at the school. To put it in perspective, the town has just two secondary schools and 51 local families did not even include Folkestone Academy on their application forms.  The total number of first choices for the two schools is much lower than one would expect with a total of 245 for 450 places, as parents seek places out of the town, including Hythe and Dover. 

Brockhill Park in Hythe is the main beneficiary, turning away 47 first choices, and Marsh Acadamy continues to attract its local population, expanding by 10 places to 190, possibly to make offers to all 161  of its first choices. With such a high proportion of offers going to first choices, it is clearly serving its local population. 

The District is under extreme pressure on places, with just three vacancies at Northfleet Girls, some boys being shocked to receive offers for Ebbsfleet Academy, a problem that will be exacerbated in future years. As last year, three of the six schools are heavily oversubscribed, all featuring in the list of most popular schools in Kent for the second year running. These are led this year by Meopham with 97 first choices turned down, fourth highest number in the county, in spite of adding another 30 temporary places since last year, taking it up to an intake of 200 pupils. The school has applied for Planning permission for a new two storey block to provide new teaching and learning spaces as well as a music classroom, drama and dance studio and a main hall. Meopham has an Outstanding Ofsted awarded in 2019 under its sponsors Swale Academy Trust, having brought the school up from Special Measures under Kent County Council in 2012. Last year there was just one successful appeal for a place out of 33.

Next comes the all through St George’s CofE, with 81 first choices turned down, also having been in Special Measures some years ago, but now performing very strongly as an Academy, being the lead school of the Aletheia Trust. Families will generally need a church background to gain admission. St John’s Catholic Comprehensive has admitted an additional 15 pupils this year and still has 44 disappointed first choices, with slightly more flexible admission arrangements including members of other faiths such as the strong Sikh population of the District. Its intake includes 12 pupils from Medway, who are likely to be Catholic pupils seeking an alternative to St John Fisher Catholic School.

A new six f.e. secondary school has been approved for the town, the Gravesend Central School, although subject to finding a site, which will certainly be a challenge in central Gravesend! The Kent Schools Commissioning Plan considers that 'Unless larger developments are brought online within the district, with land allocated for Education provision, it is unlikely we will accommodate all of the forecast demand within this planning group alone. The additional provision can and will be secured but within the wider north west Kent area'. In other words we are likely to see more Gravesham children allocated places at Ebbsfleet Academy from next year onward. 

Between them, the other three schools, Northfleet Girls, Northfleet Technology College (boys) and Thamesview pick up 79 LAAs, surely a worryingly high number for each of them if they are unable to even get on the application forms of so many families, with six choices available. 

This is the first year that the new  School of Science & Technology Maidstone (SSTM) features in the allocations list, as for 2020 entry its admission process was not part of the Kent coordinated scheme. Unsurprisingly, it is amongst the most oversubscribed N/S schools in the county with 195 first choices for its 192 places (12 above PAN), of whom just 136 were offered places. This suggests that quite a few families from further away, probably South Maidstone had a go at applying, without realising how popular the school would be. Not surprisingly, Valley Park which is situated next door to MSST has been knocked off its place as the most oversubscribed N/S school in the county, but the third most popular is a considerable surprise, The Lenham School, placed in Special Measures under KCC just over five years ago, but taken over by and resurrected by the Valley Invicta Academy Trust which, in a remarkable coup also runs SSTM and Valley Park. Not surprisingly, the three other oversubscribed schools have all seen their popularity fall sharply, Maplesden Noakes down from 88 disappointed first choices to 15, also partly brought about by an increase of 30 places for the second year running, taking it to 240.  St Simon Stock Catholic disappointed first choices fell from 43 to 15, and St Augustine down from 30 to three vacancies, in spite of 16 LAAs. The other two Maidstone schools were always going to be hit most by the opening of SSTM. Cornwallis has suffered the greatest hit, down from six vacancies in 2020 to 77, even making a reduction of 45 places from its PAN to 210, although it was rebuilt for the larger number some years ago.  That is a loss of 116 children from the allocation total, giving it just  133 children and the second-highest overall vacancy rate in the county at 41%, probably losing more before September. However, New Line Learning has not only weathered the storm this year, but has improved its popularity considerably,  with the number of first preferences up from 84 to 111 and just 30 vacancies for its 180 places, with the number of LAAs having fallen from 84 to 25. Presumably, the major part of this large increase in numbers has come from Cornwallis. SSTM has been built ahead of further large building development in Maidstone, which cannot come too soon for Cornwallis, although with South Maidstone families opting for NLL instead, it suggests the problem is of its own making.   
For the fourth year running, the three schools have no vacancies between them. Knole Academy continues to be very popular with 102 first choices being turned away. The 250 places offered include 53 from Bromley, both figures being very similar to last year. The shine continues to come off Trinity School, with 100 fewer first choices than in 2019, although it still disappointed 36 of these. Orchards Academy also filled again, for the first time ever turning away first choices, 14 in number.

Next Page: District Surveys of: Swale; Thanet; and Tonbridge and Malling

Last modified on Tuesday, 30 November 2021 23:11


  • Comment Link Monday, 12 April 2021 08:26 posted by Phillip Rogers


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