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Saturday, 24 July 2021 07:29

Oversubscription and Vacancies Medway Primary Schools: 2021


I apologise for the greatly delayed publication of this item.

I have subsequently included an update exploring Medway Council's forecasting of the dramatic fall in numbers described below

There is no doubt that the big news for primary allocations in Medway this year has been the fall of 10% in the number of children being allocated places at local schools, resulting in many more vacancies. All Medway children looking for a local place were offered one, along with a small number living out of the area. In total 3277 places were offered, down from 3447 in 2020 leaving 16% unfilled, well up on previous years. That also means far fewer families were disappointed with the offers they received, with 92% getting their first choice, up from 88% last year. 51 local children were allocated places by Medway Council after they were given none of their choices, well down on previous years, almost certainly having limited these choices to a few popular schools. This fall was forecast, although underestimated, by the Council in its Annual Review of the School Place Planning Strategy in October last year, see new section below, the decline now forecast to continue for each of the next three years.   

The one form entry The Pilgrim School in Rochester is by some way the most primary oversubscribed school in Medway, turning away 35 first choices, even more than the 30 places it offered. Next were the three schools that headed the list last year, Barnsole (down from 49 to 24 first choices disappointed), Academy of Woodlands (down from 27 to 24); and Cliffe Woods (down from 50 to 19), separated by Brompton-Westbrook on 21. St Thomas More Catholic saw the most remarkable change in fortune, having gone from 13 vacancies on allocation last year, to being 14 first choices oversubscribed for 2021 entry.

Pilgrim 3    Barnsole Woodlands

Not surprisingly, apart from the Hoo Peninsula, all areas saw an increase in the number of unfilled places, most in Chatham (up to 19% from 12%), and Gillingham (up to 17% from 10% in 2020), contributing to the high proportion of satisfied applicants. Nearly two-thirds of the 69 schools had vacancies, way up on the 36 of 2020. Five schools had more than half of their places unfilled on allocation, a situation which, if continued will present them with financial difficulties. 

I look more closely at each Medway area separately, below, links as follows: Chatham; Gillingham; Hoo Peninsula; Rainham; Rochester; Strood, Walderslade, together with the situation for Junior Schools, here

The significant fall in numbers has resulted in considerably fewer pressure points across Medway Primary schools. As a result, this article is briefer than in previous years but if there are sections or individual school details that need amplification, please let me know.

You will find further data for Medway children in my general round-up published in April, and the 2020 comparative article here. I have published the parallel Kent article for 2021 here; and Key Stage Two performance data for 2019 here  (there are no published outcomes for 2020 because of Covid). For the same reason, my most recent survey of Kent and Medway Primary Ofsted Inspections was in March 2020 here

At the other end of the scale, five schools had over half of their places empty, St John’s CofE Infants for the third consecutive year, with 17 of its 30 places unfilled at allocation. The others are Stoke Primary Academy (see below), Oasis Skinner Street, Napier and Phoenix (see below) Primary Academies. Another four have over a third of their places empty, only one more than in 2020, suggesting that the fall in pupil numbers has affected schools across Medway. 

Most Oversubscribed Primary Schools in Medway 2021
Not Offered
First Not
%  No
Pilgrim (Ro) 30 35 24 117%
Barnsole (G) 90 24 49 27%
Academy of Woodlands (G) 90 24 27 27%
Brompton-Westbrook (G) 60 21 10 35%
Cliffe Woods (H) 60 19 50 32%
St Thomas More Catholic (C) 60 14  0 23%
St Margaret's at Troy Town (R) 30 13  6 43%
St William of Perth Catholic (R) 30 13 11  43%
Hoo St Werburgh (H) 60 11  4 18%
All Saints CofE (C) 45 26 7 37%
St Margaret's Infants (Ra) 90 10 24 11%
Temple Mill (S) 30 9 11  30%

Notes: The letter after the name of each school denotes the Medway area in which it is located, listed in the first part of this article. All but the two Catholic schools in the table are academies. You will find a list of all Kent and Medway Academies here, and additionally for those grouped into Multi-Academy Trusts, here

The abbreviation LAA (Local Authority Allocation) in the Area sections below refers to a child placed by Medway Council at a school they have not applied to, as all their own choices were full of children with a higher priority. PAN refers to the Published Admission Number of the school. Academies are denoted by (A) where this is not obvious from the name quoted.  

Many, if not most, of the 51 families offered schools they did not apply to, will have only put a few schools on their application form, perhaps in the false hope of increasing their chances at a favoured school. Some will have made alternative plans if unsucessful. The 2021 school appeals have now concluded, but I doubt outcomes will be very different from 2020, when of the 44 Medway primary appeals heard for situations where infant class legislation applied, there were no successes at all (see here).

Medway Council Forecasting
Medway Council produces a School Place Planning Strategy from time to time, most recently in 2018, looking forward through to 2022, updated with an annual review. The 2018 Plan contains a graph (Page 10) showing a peak in four-year-olds in the Authority in 2016, then a fall through to 2018. It then shifts to a forecast, based on births and anticipated inward migration, which shows a continued decline in  2019 before figures rise quite sharply each year through to 2025. The latest Review published in October 2020, revises this considerably, with a peak of around 3,700 for last September's intake (Page 3) which, although it is correct in forecasting a peak, considerably overestimates the 3447 offered places in Medway's primary schools for September this year, and more accurately, the 3582 who actually turned up last September according to the schools' census. I have analysed where the 135 additional children were found places, unsurprisingly and mainly in the least popular schools in the most pressured areas.  It then correctly forecasts a decline for this summer, but only to 3550, a fall of 4%, as distinct from the much larger actual fall of 10% to 3227 comparing allocation data for the two years.   It has been suggested that the discrepancy may be caused by the Brexit outcome, with a number of families moving back to their home countries. The Review now forecasts a further decline in Reception numbers in each of the next three years, which appears likely on the evidence. 

Next: Individual Areas - Chatham, Gillingham, Hoo Peninsula, Rainham

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Last modified on Wednesday, 12 January 2022 11:53

1 comment

  • Comment Link Monday, 02 August 2021 18:06 posted by Andrea Nicholson

    Peter, Are you surprised that Medway Council is so poor at forecasting? PETER: For me, Medway Council has failed in many aspects of its educational activity in the past, but by losing or divesting itself of most of its schools, through academisation this has become less noticeable. I have expressed concerns about various aspects of the Council's planning but have not really focused on this one before. Given Kent's failure too often to forecast need, I guess it must be more difficult than I thought.

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