Supporting Families
  • banner4
  • banner2
  • banner7
  • banner8
  • banner12
  • banner9
  • banner11
  • banner10
  • banner6
  • banner13
Thursday, 13 January 2022 20:06

Crisis in Primary Provision in the new Ebbsfleet Development

An article in Kentonline, headed ‘Ebbsfleet Garden City parents sold dream new homes but cannot get children into nearby schools’, understates the serious problem of primary school provision in the area. Currently, three new primary schools have been built to serve Ebbsfleet, but all are full and oversubscribed for the current Reception Year, and three of the four schools in nearby Swanscombe and Greenhithe are also bursting at the seams. Dartford town offers no respite, with just eight Reception vacancies out of 972 places available. There is a current crisis in the provision of primary places in both areas with few signs of how it is to improve.

The new Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent 2022-26, published last week, claims (pp 75 & 76) there is sufficient provision across the area, based on 38 vacancies at Knockhall Primary School, which unfortunately is deeply unpopular with many parents and relies on 15 Local Authority Allocations, the third highest figure in the county, to reach the current 51 places out of 90 filled. In an article I wrote back in May, I observed: According to the CPEPK, Dartford is the only one of Kent’s 12 Districts to show a shortage of primary places now and for the next few years, with just 28 vacancies out of 975 this year in Dartford Town, or 3%, the lowest figure across  Kent.

Looking to the future, with Ebbsfleet expected to have 15,000 dwellings, and Dartford being top spot for Londoners moving out, there are two new developments in the plan. The first of these is for the new Alkerden CofE Academy whose secondary section is opening in September, which currently advertises: primary provision to open at a future date to be confirmed’ , which according to the Commissioning Plan will offer two forms of entry. Ebbsfleet Green Primary School opened in September 2020 and pupils spent their first year commuting to another school in Strood, as the premises were still being built (the school website hasn’t yet noticed the new school is now occupied!). It is to have a second form of entry ‘eventually, again according to the website. Otherwise nothing according to the Commissioning Plan until in the longer term ‘should housing be delivered at current rates, two further new schools will be required (Western Cross and Station Quarter)’. Just a few problems with that. Firstly, there is a demand now. Secondly, there appear to be no details of these schools settled yet, no government approval, and even then the schools will have to be built, Ebbsfleet Green just one of many examples on this website of long delays in the delivery of new schools.

The Kentonline article brims with positivity from the CEO of Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, the company that built the houses and schools in the area and KCC. The CEO considers that: 'We don't want parents to travel any further than necessary, however, when we build the schools we aim to complete them before people move in as it makes more sense to have spaces waiting rather than no school at all' , but unfortunately he has got it badly wrong in this enormous scheme. KCC echoes the same false yarn. They also correctly note that 'KCC will ensure that all children can gain access to a school in their area', unfortunately with no qualification as to the nature of the school. Both agree that 'although this isn't a solution for the parents in difficulty now, we believe this problem will correct itself in the future'. Apparently 'we would expect the situation to ease as more places are filled in the earlier years by children living in the vicinity, which will in turn reduce the impact of sibling priority for future applications'. This could well be one factor, but even if so, it will take a number of years to unravel and meanwhile too many children will spend their primary school careers travelling long distances to school because of poor planning by the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation and KCC.

There is a partial solution to all of this; make Knockhall a more popular school! However since it was taken away from the corrupt Lilac Sky Academies Trust in 2017, it has continued to have difficulties, although the Ofsted Report of 2019, which found it Requires Improvement read positively, and also looking back on its history. The high number of Local Authority Allocations for last September’s  intake is a clear sign that there are still major reputational problems.

The Commissioning Plan records cheerfully that there is a current deficit of places across Dartford town, notes an increase in housing above that taken into account and considers that ‘the deficits can be managed within the existing capacity but will look to negotiate individual temporary capacity with schools if the need arises. I am afraid I can't see it, additionally with Dartford having recently been named the most popular destination for homeowners looking to leave London, 

Last modified on Sunday, 27 February 2022 19:31

1 comment

  • Comment Link Friday, 14 January 2022 23:17 posted by Angry Ebbsfleet Parent

    We are parents of a Reception age child, who very recently moved into a new house at Ebbsfleet, foolishly trusting in the assurance of the developers that there are good schools nearby. We are distraught to discover that whilst this may be true, they are all full. It is no comfort to be told that it will be better in future years. We live close to Cherry ORchard Academy and have bene offered Knockhall Primary, which you refer to disparagingly in your article, over two miles away. The one good fact is that I am working from home and can take my daughter to and from school each day. When I have to return to my London office, we have no idea how she will get to school, PETER: I have enormous sympathy for your situation, but am afraid no suggestions. One correction. I did not speak disparagingly of the current state of Knockhall. I referred to its reputation which may of may not be valid.

Leave a comment

Make sure you enter the (*) required information where indicated.
Basic HTML code is allowed.