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Thursday, 20 March 2014 00:00

Secondary School Oversubscription and Vacancies across Kent & Medway

I have now received further data from Kent County Council and Medway Council regarding secondary school places for September. Now that children have been allocated to schools using the co-ordinated admission process, it is possible to see the pattern of oversubscription, and schools where there are too many empty spaces. This pattern will change significantly between now and September, because some children will secure places off waiting lists, over six hundred will win places on appeal, and others will go off to private schools, often where they have been disappointed by the school offered. I have previously published the general admission statistics for Kent and Medway. You can find last year's pattern to compare here

I have tried to look at the key areas, notably: Ashford, Canterbury, Dartford, Dover and Folkestone, Medway, Sittingbourne, Thanet and West Kent, together with a list of those grammar schools with vacancies. However, first a look at the ten most popular  grammar and non-selective schools, the most popular school having more than doubled its level of oversubscription in rising from eighth place last year. Yet many people will never have heard of it, let alone know where it is.

brompton academy

Most Oversubscribed Secondary Schools in Kent & Medway 2014
Non-Selective Number Grammar Number
1 Brompton Academy 173 Dartford Boys 146
2 Leigh Academy 106 Skinners 94
3 Fulston Manor 103 Dartford Girls 89
4 St George's, Broadstairs 93 Rochester Math 58
5 Westlands 92 Judd 53
6 Bennett Memorial 83 Maidstone 52
7 Longfield Academy 75 Simon Langton Boys 45
8 Charles Dickens 53 Tonbridge 44
9 Valley Park 50 Tunbridge Wells Boys 36
10= Knole Academy 49 Sir Roger Manwood's 29
10= Skinners Kent Academy 49


(1) Wherever I have quoted oversubscription for grammar schools in Kent and Medway I am only referring to children who have qualified for grammar school, by passing the appropriate Test 

(2) Figures for levels of oversubscription apply to first choices only. 

(2) Some schools have expanded their Planned Admission numbers for this year only and so have turned away fewer first choices than if they had stayed the same. The most extreme example of this is Canterbury Academy which added 50 places and is still oversubscribed by 48 places, which would otherwise have been a figure of 98, placing it fourth on the above list. 



This week news broke that Kent’s first Garden City is to be built in Ebbsfleet, enabling a proper infrastructure to be incorporated. Sufficient school places are an essential part of this, and cannot come too soon with six of the most oversubscribed schools in Kent being in neighbouring Dartford, so there is already immense pressure on provision.

Dartford Grammar School, with an intake of 150, due to rise to 180 next year, has turned away 146 applicants who put it first choice, to take top spot for popularity amongst grammar schools. Leigh Academy keeps its top spot in Kent for non-selective schools, having rejected 106 first choices. Dartford Girls Grammar turned away 89, with three other Dartford schools also heavily oversubscribed. These are Wilmington Academy (44), and the two Wilmington Grammar Schools, the Boys having extended its intake by 30 but still being 28 places oversubscribed. Wilmington Girls is full for the first time in some years, turning away 20 grammar qualified first choices. There are just 24 vacant spaces in the whole of the Borough, all at the other two non-selective schools, although these have been topped up with 41 KCC allocations. Whilst much of the grammar school pressure comes from London families chasing grammar school places, this is not true of the non-selectives, and in any case over 80 Dartford children are taking up non-selective and grammar school places in Bexley alone.  


Elsewhere, as usual the pressure on boys’ grammar school places is very high in West Kent, the Skinners School and The Judd School both having expanded by 30 places. Skinners still turned away 94 boys and Judd 53 (both well up on last year). The main effect of the pressure can be seen at Tunbridge Wells Boys Grammar which has turned away 36 boys, some from Sevenoaks town who have been offered non-selective school places instead. There remains a smaller shortage of girls’ places but I anticipate this will vanish after appeals and movement on waiting lists. The proposed Sevenoaks Annexe, now to be sponsored by Weald of Kent Grammar, looks likely to become operational in 2016 and is clearly needed on these figures.

Amongst non-selective schools, the main features are the rise and rise of Skinners Kent Academy, beyond the pale just a few years ago but now with 49 disappointed first choice applicants, and the second year of the Trinity Free School in Sevenoaks, still operating out of an office block, not full last year, but 38 oversubscribed for 2014. In Hadlow, near Tonbridge, the unique Hadlow Rural Community Free School has doubled its intake from the planned 30 children, taking children from other local schools, especially High Weald Academy in Cranbrook  which has 57% of its Year 7 places empty in September.  Of course, as in other towns, but more so in West Kent, vacancy figures will rise as some children gain places in more prestigious schools. In the north Sevenoaks area Oasis Hextable Academy continues to struggle, although the number of 42 children initially offered places for its 150 places, has exactly doubled as KCC allocated another 42 children to the school, who have not applied for it.


At the other end of the grammar school scale, we now have four grammar schools in Dover and Folkestone operating their own tests as an alternative form of entry. Three of these, Dover Boys, Dover Girls and Folkestone Girls, have admitted over half their entry without having passed the Kent Test, a grand total of 283 children having qualified through the two tests. Three of the four schools are full as a result but the academic results of the two Dover grammars, whose test is well established, give a warning. Dover Grammar Girls, along with Folkestone School for Girls are remarkably two of the highest performing grammars in Kent, but Dover Boys is struggling and has recently lost its headteacher after a critical OFSTED. A major consequence of the greatly expanded numbers is that some local non-selective schools are being stripped of pupils. The problem in Folkestone is further exacerbated by Folkestone Academy’s decision to add on another 30 unneeded places in the town, although its popularity has been declining steadily over the past three years and it is not oversubscribed for the first time since opening. Those schools which have suffered worst are Pent Valley Technology College in Folkestone, with 62% of its places still vacant in spite of having removed 60 this year, and St Edmund’s Catholic School in Dover which went into Special Measures  last year, and pays the price with 58% vacancies.


The other notable rise in popularity amongst grammar schools are the two bidding to become “semi-super-selective”,  offering first priority to high scoring boys living in their locality. These are Maidstone Grammar School and Simon Langton Boys’ Grammar rejecting 52 and 45 first choices respectively, their popularity booming in spite of being two of the lowest performing grammar schools on the five GCSE measurement! I think we can expect others to try and emulate them, further eroding the concept of “a common grammar school standard” across Kent.


Elsewhere in Kent, the third most popular school in the county is Fulston Manor School in Sittingbourne, a town that is desperately short of non-selective places. Fulston Manor has increased its intake by 25 places to try and manage demand, but still turned away 103 first choices, a rise of over 40 since 2013. Westlands in the same town is not far behind with 92, the third secondary school, Sittingbourne Community College also being oversubscribed. Many of the unhappy applicants will be from the Isle of Sheppey, whose academy is still not popular after its many difficulties, having been left with 96 vacancies as a result. However, the two grammar schools, Borden and Highsted, both have plenty of spaces still going so these could well be the next grammar schools to look at setting their own test to boost numbers 


Thanet is another problem area, the difficulties primarily being caused by the unpopularity of Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate, which has only made 51 offers, 18 of them to children allocated by KCC who did not apply to the school, giving a total of just 29% of its capacity. This is a further sharp fall on last year’s figure at this stage of just 80 children, only 53 of whom took up their places in September. Surely, there is no way the Marlowe can be allowed to continue in this way. It must be nearly bankrupt and will have to lay off even more staff this summer so that it will soon be impossible to offer a full curriculum. As a result, there are just 4 vacancies across the other six non-selective schools, most being heavily oversubscribed including St George’s CofE, now the third most popular non-selective school in Kent, with 93 first choices turned away.

Feel sorry for the children offered places at the Chaucer Technology School in Canterbury who now have to find another school after KCC decided to close it when it saw just 42 places were taken up. This figure is nine higher than the number who applied for and were given the Marlowe Academy. The clue is in the name! KCC cannot close Marlowe because it is an Academy. Government has been highly critical of the Marlowe several times in recent years, but appears unwilling to take the necessary action to sort it out.


Another school in the news this week is the Towers School, Ashford, with its controversial and heavily criticised proposal for uni-sex toilets (I have been told that Cornwallis School has had a similar non-controversial scheme since the new buildings opened). Even before this story broke, it has been hammered by the opening of the Wye Free School, with a fall of 54 students at this stage over last year, leaving 50% of its spaces empty. Meanwhile Wye has immediately risen high in the list of oversubscribed schools on the back of this, turning away 44 children for its 90 places. The North School has just about filled, a considerable fall on last year’s heavy oversubscription, but based on applications made before the news broke of the school being placed in Special Measures. This supports my theory that parents often sense when a school is on the decline before OFSTED comes in, and take appropriate action. 


The closure of the Chaucer makes the situation in Canterbury very tight, in spite of Canterbury Academy expanding by 50 places. The only school in the District with vacancies is The Community College, Whitstable, initially with 52, but many of these will be taken up by some of the 42 ex-Chaucer children - there is going to be a transport cost here! The situation is not quite as serious as it appears, as traditionally the Chaucer has drawn from a wide area including Faversham and there may be vacancies elsewhere - Abbey School has just 12.

As expected the proposed move to Herne Bay for Barton Court Grammar School has affected its popularity, but although the number of first choices has fallen sharply to 88,  it has still managed to fill an expanded 128 places, mainly with disappointed applicants for the Langtons. 


Medway boasts, if that is the correct word, the most popular school across the area, Brompton Academy turning away a mindblowing 173 first choices. There is a sharp fall to the next non-selective, which is Rainham School for Girls, with 44 disappointed children. Five of the other eight non-selectives are full, for Bishop of Rochester Academy, which has had a very difficult time since it opened, with 94 vacancies. Along with two other schools, John Fisher Catholic and The Robert Napier (just 25 vacancies between them), they absorb 117 children who got none of their chosen schools, this polarisation of choice contributing to the sharp fall in the number of Medway children who were offered their first choice school this year. General Medway admission statistics are here

Rainham Mark Grammar School has retained its increase of 30 places of last year, still being 37 first choices oversubscribed, making it the most popular grammar school in the Borough, and increasing the pressure on the two Chatham Grammar Schools,  both with plenty of vacancies. Sir Joseph Williamson's has recovered from last year's slump in popularity and has 58 first choices rejected, including nearly all those from the Hoo Peninsula many of whom now face a difficult journey to the Chatham Grammars. Rochester Grammar and Fort Pitt Grammar just filled.  


The grammar schools with more than 15 vacancies are: Borden Grammar; Chatham Grammar Boys; Chatham Grammar Girls; Chatham and Clarendon Grammar (Ramsgate); Folkestone School for Girls; Highsted Grammar;  Maidstone Grammar Girls; Mayfield Grammar; & Norton Knatchbull. 

With a smaller number of vacancies come: Highworth Grammar; Invicta Grammar; and Oakwood Park Grammar.

Last modified on Wednesday, 09 September 2015 21:57

1 comment

  • Comment Link Sunday, 23 March 2014 22:00 posted by Liz ATTWOOD

    Hi Peter! thanks for info on oversubscription which details 1st choice refusals. I know KCC has always said that order of preference of choices doesn't matter to the extent that the school doesn't know this when they make an offer. Does this apply with academies? At open days some, schools such as Westlands openly say that if you put them 1st you will get in. Do you know which is the truth? I have heard of one child from. Sheppey who secured a place at Westlands, having put it 1st and another from Sonora fields in Sittingbourne who putting Westlands 3rd after highsted and fulston (they failed11 plus but want to appeal) were allocated Sheppey. In theory being closer should they not have got Westlands? Also will school know ranking at appeal.PETER: Neither Schools nor academies know where applicants have put them on the list, either when ranking applicants in order or when they have appealed. KCC holds this information confidentially, although I suppose if someone has also applied to Sittingbourne Community College, Westlands would theoretically know which way round they are if one is offered a place, as they are part of the same academy group. I have investigated many such claims and unless fraud is involved always find this is second hand information which does not follow through, or else there is a logical explanation such as a sibling involved. If the parent is convinced that the process has been applied improperly they should raise this at appeal. Westlands is not alone in making the false claim about first choices to encourage parents to list them in first place. However, in the case of Westlands, they have often made it true by eventually offering places to anyone who appeals, before the appeal is heard, so there are no appeals as happened for 2013 entry.

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