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Monday, 24 May 2021 18:38

Oversubscription and Vacancies in Kent Primary Schools: 2021


For 2020 Allocations Article on the Areas in this section, go to here. 

Dover, Deal and Sandwich

As usual, there are few problems anywhere across the District, with an increased 21% vacancy rate across its 38 schools. Most oversubscribed is Temple Ewell CofE (A) with 10 disappointed first choices, followed by Hornbeam (A) with nine. Remarkably there are 27 schools with vacancies, but only three more than half empty, with Downs CofE and Langdon on 53%.

Of particular concern is Nonington CofE which fits no criterion I can see for remaining open with its 50 pupils, including just 21 in the lowest four age groups, but still has qualified shortly to have a permanent extension of two new classrooms, rather than close or amalgamate. There are five or fewer joining in September. The school is staffed by an Executive Head, a Head of School who is also one of the three class teachers, a SENCO, and seven teaching assistants, a pupil staff ratio of at least six to one, assuming the TAs are part-time.  Ofsted found the school to Require Improvement in 2018. The Executive Head, Mr Dexter, also runs two other local small Local Authority schools, Aycliffe Community (PAN 20, 25% vacancies); and Goodnestone (PAN 10, 27%), as well as being Chair of Governors at a fourth.  

Not surprisingly, the CPEPK reports (p71) for the District that ‘The demand for Year R places is forecast to reduce across the Plan period with all planning group showing a surplus of more than 5% Year R and Years R-6 places from 2021-22 onwards’, perhaps deliberately playing down the scale of the overprovision of places.   

Last year’s Reception Year population bulge appears to have been a one off, with numbers receding across Faversham’s 11 schools. Most popular school is, as usual, Ethelbert Road, 18 first choices oversubscribed for the second year running, followed this year by St Mary of Charity CofE (A) with 14, and Ospringe CofE with seven, both well up on 2020. Seven of the schools have vacancies, topped off by Bysing Wood (A) which was mysteriously doubled in size by KCC a few years ago but now, having academised, is faring no better with the county’s second highest vacancy rate of 70% for its 60 places, closely followed by Eastling with 60%, although with just 15 places on offer. 
Folkestone and Hythe
This year’s Commissioning Plan records that ‘We forecast around 17% to 18% of surplus Year R places across the District throughout the Plan period, with no planning group being under pressure. Across Years R-6 surplus places are set to increase from 7.2% in 2019-20 to 15.5% in 2024- 25. Should the surplus be allowed to grow, some schools may be impacted by falling rolls and consequently falling budgets. Therefore, we are working with both schools maintained by KCC and those led by academy trusts to reduce pupil admission numbers in areas of significant surplus places for 2022-23 onwards’. This year, the vacancy rate has reached 19% on allocation, higher in Folkestone town schools.

Just four of the 15 town schools were oversubscribed, headed up by Sandgate, with 36 first choices disappointed, placing it in my table of most popular schools, above, of the first time in five years, although it was the most oversubscribed school in the county in 2015. The others are St Eanswythe’s CofE (19), Stella Maris Catholic (7) and St Martin’s CofE (5).

The vacancy list is headed up as usual by two of the three notorious Turner Schools primaries, Martello (F) filling just 9 of its 30 places, its lowest intake yet, the 70% vacancy figure being second equal highest in the county. Not far behind is Morehall (A) with 55% of its 60 places unfilled. The third, Folkestone Primary (A), now separated from Folkestone Academy (which was previously all-through) has lost the popularity it enjoyed before Turner Schools took it over and has an increasing number of vacancies; 18 out of its 60 places this year.  The Commissioning Plan's aim to reduce pupil admission numbers should know where to start!

Outside the town, Palmarsh is the only school significantly oversubscribed with 20 disappointed first choices, with over half of the 21 schools having vacancies.  Next comes Lympne CofE with eight. Sadly, after I wrote about the Brenzett CofE (A) recovery after academisation last year, it has slipped back and has 60% of its 21 places empty. 

Just four of the 10 Gravesend schools filled, St George’s CofE (A), St John’s Catholic (A), Kings Farm and Singlewell, the first two being oversubscribed by 25 and 14 first choices respectively. Westcourt (A) has most vacancies at 48%, followed by Holy Trinity CofE (A), with 38%, now an academy with the Aletheia Trust, whose lead school is the all-through St George’s, and which has a job to do to turn round Holy Trinity's reputation.

Northfleet has been very tight for primary places for some years, as set out in previous surveys, but has eased for 2021. The new Springhead (F) school opened last year, and is now in the Kent Co-ordinated scheme for the first time, filling its 60 places. To balance this, Copperfield (A) has reduced its intake by 30 places also to a total of 60, but still has a vacancy rate of 28% in spite of an improved reputation. Further, nearly all children offered places at the school placed Copperfield on their preference list, a far cry from the 42 LAAs of 2020. Painters Ash, the nearest school to Springhead, has also been badly hit going from six first preferences oversubscribed in 2020, to a 35% vacancy rate for its 60 places. Every other Northfleet primary school has seen its number of first choices fall.

Five of the seven village schools are oversubscribed, the others being Culverstone Green (A) and Vigo Village at the southern tip of the District. Cobham continues to be the most popular with 23 first choices turned away, often drawing applicants out from the town, and Meopham (A) similarly with eight. 

The arrival of the new Bearsted Primary Academy (F) last year has certainly eased the intense pressure on schools in the North of the town, as is seen in the current data when Bearsted becomes part of the Kent co-ordinated scheme. Last year there were just 12 reported vacancies across the 25 town schools before Bearsted, operating outside the scheme was added in, for 2021 there are 99 mostly in seven schools more than 20% undersubscribed, headed up by Archbishop Courtney, (A) 51%, and Holy Family Catholic, (A) 43%, both with a record of difficulties. Bearsted has not yet established itself, with just 26 families placing it as first choice, out of the 45 offered places for the 60 child capacity.

Nearby St John’s CofE (A) is still one of Kent’s most oversubscribed schools, although the number of first choices not offered a place has fallen from 55 to 33. Other popular schools are Allington (A), which has shot up in popularity to 38 first choices turned away (from 20 in 2020), Loose (A, 29), Langley Park (F, 27), South Borough (A, 23), Valley Invicta ( East Borough), (F, 16), St Michael’s CofE Infant (14), and West Borough (11).    

The situation outside the town is very different with just three of the 21 schools being significantly oversubscribed. Bredhurst CofE is oversubscribed by 14 first choices losing out for just 15 places, making it one of the most oversubscribed schools in the county per place, Boughton Monchelsea, 13, and St Margaret’s Collier Street, CofE with 10.  There are just six other schools oversubscribed. 43 of the 66 vacancies are at two schools, Staplehurst with 28 (37%), and Harrietsham 15 (25%), although Leeds & Bromfield CofE with seven of its 15 places unfilled on allocation has 47% unfilled in total. Eight schools have a PAN of less than 20, three having just five pupils in Reception, according to the October 2020 census, Laddingford St Mary's CofE, Leeds & Bromfield CofE, and Platts Heath.

Next: Malling (including Kings Hill); Sevenoaks; Sheppey; Sittingbourne; Swanley

Last modified on Wednesday, 26 May 2021 20:41


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