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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. 

This is the eastern and mainly rural half of Tonbridge District, stretching from Wouldham on the Medway border, through to Wateringbury and Borough Green,  containing 28 schools, with two urban areas near Maidstone,  Aylesford/East Malling and Kings Hill.

There are just four schools oversubscribed by more than seven first choices: Brookfield Infant (25); Ryarsh (21); Wouldham, All Saints CofE (14), which mainly draws from Halling over the River Medway; and Offham (13). All four have seen a sharp increase in popularity. 

Aylesford (A), which became the most oversubscribed school in the area last year, by virtue of reducing its intake by 30 places, has returned to its normal intake number of 60 children, leaving just two first choices disappointed.

There are thirteen schools with vacancies, most at Wateringbury CofE, 47% and Borough Green 40%, with 12% of places unfilled overall across the area, suggesting a fairly well-balanced distribution. St Katherine’s (A) in Snodland would have exceeded the latter, except that it received 10 LAAs, the largest figure in Tonbridge District.  

Although the number of children offered places in the six town schools is almost identical to 2020, there is a sharp drop in disappointed first choices, the most oversubscribed schools this year being Riverhead Infants with 17, and St John’s CofE with 16. Overall there are 39 first choices rejected, compared with 81 in 2020, suggesting parents are making more realistic choices. There are just 13 vacancies in all, at Seal and Sevenoaks Primary (for the first time in many years).

I split the large hinterland of Sevenoaks into three sub districts, Rural, Rural East and Swanley, the last named forming a separate section. The main rural area has 21 schools and has 10% fewer children offered places this year than in 2020, a total of 471. Seven schools are oversubscribed, but none in double figures, a total of 35. Two-thirds of the school have vacancies, Halstead, which always has difficulty in attracting numbers, with just five or fewer children for its 25 places, at 80% the largest vacancy rate in the county (see above).

 Numbers have also tumbled in the East of the area, with 17% fewer offers than in 2020, down to 213. Hartley (A), is as usual the most oversubscribed school, turning away 17 first choices, followed by Fawkham CofE with eight. Horton Kirby CofE has 22 of the 27 vacancies.

Sheppey has also seen a fall in numbers, down by 9%, the two oversubscribed schools, Queenborough (A) and Rose Street, disappointing just nine first choices between them. The other eight schools have a total of 141 empty spaces, Richmond (A) and West Minster having taken the biggest hit, vacancies rising sharply to 43% and 36% respectively.
Sittingbourne & Rural Swale
I have considered Faversham and Sheppey, both also parts of Swale, in separate sections.

There is a small fall of 4% in numbers across the town’s 15 schools, partially balanced by a reduction of 30 places at Westlands Primary, down to 60. 

Bobbing Village was oversubscribed by 35 first choices for its 30 places, the third-highest proportion of rejected first choices to places in the county. Oddly whilst the primary section of the 2021 Kent Commissioning Plan states that in the event of pressure on places in North Sittingbourne (covering Bobbing): ‘It is anticipated that, should this be the case, surplus capacity in adjacent planning groups will provide sufficient places until a new 2FE primary provision as part of an all-through school is established on the Quinton Road development’, whereas the secondary section only refers to a new 6FE secondary school. There are another 23 first choices turned down across six schools, the total of 58 being well down on last year’s 115, perhaps because of parents making more realistic choices, with eight having vacancies (up from two in 2020), most as usual at Sunny Bank (A) (see above), with 73% of its 45 places empty, the second-highest percentage in Kent, placed in Special Measures as a KCC school in 2019 but now an academy.  Any other pressures in North Sittingbourne will be eased by expanding Sunny Bank according to CPEPK, although this is against KCC policy as the school failed its Ofsted two years ago.

Away from the town, the overall picture is generally similar to 2020, although the small Rodmersham primary, with an intake of 18 and its consistently high KS2 performance and Outstanding Ofsted pre-lockdown, has now increased its oversubscription level, turning away 13 first choices, over half of the 25 total rejected across the 12 schools.

Selling CofE (A) continues to be unpopular, with 70% of its 30 places unfilled, the third equal highest vacancy rate in the county, along with Bysing Wood, Faversham (above), also in Swale. Selling is the lead school of the Village Academy Trust, which I looked at more closely earlier in the year in an article also featuring Dymchurch, Lydd and Petham primaries.

In an unenviable record, three Swale schools have the lowest proportions t of first choices of any schools in Kent, headed by Bysing Wood and Sunny Bank, with only 22% of places available being taken up by first choices, followed by Selling with 23%.

Crockenhill is the most oversubscribed school in the area this year, turning away 13 first choices, although it only just filled in 2020. St Paul’s CofE and Horizon (A) continue to be popular. Downsview just filled having had 30% of its 30 places vacant in 2020, and so appears to have recovered its reputation from a difficult time reflected in its critical Ofsted Report of January 2020, its acting head having moved on to run Halling Primary in Medway, although recently losing her job.  The only school with significant vacancies this year is the large Hextable Primary, with 20 of its 90 places unfilled.    


Next: Thanet; Tonbridge; Tunbridge Wells; Junior Schools

Last modified on Wednesday, 26 May 2021 20:41


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