Supporting Families
Wednesday, 11 May 2016 20:40

Kent Reception and Junior School Allocations 2016: Oversubscription and Vacancies

I have now received a school by school breakdown of Reception and Junior school allocations for Kent for September 2016. As last year, these show a sharp contrast between pressure on spaces in urban districts and those in more rural areas. The multitude of local pressures focused on the towns see the biggest problems this year coming in Sevenoaks, no empty spaces, Maidstone, one space, Gravesham, three, and Tunbridge Wells seven, each in just one school.  Then come Ashford, Faversham and Tonbridge, each with two per cent of their places empty. Contrast this with Ashford’s rural areas, with 16% of empty spaces, and Shepway with 15%.

The most popular schools vary considerably year on year, 2016 being no exception, the top ten being: Fleetdown Primary, Dartford, and Loose Primary, Maidstone both turning away 53 first choices; Great Chart, Ashford, 41; Holy Trinity and St John’s CofE, Margate, 38; St Joseph’s RC in Northfleet, Sandgate in Folkestone (last year’s most oversubscribed school) and  Claremont in Tunbridge Wells all on 37; St Michael’s CofE Infant in Maidstone, 35, St Crispin’s Infant on 34; and Herne Infant on 33. Just five of these schools were in the top ten last year, with Loose more than doubling the number of disappointed families as it recovers from several difficult years.

You will find more information and a fuller District breakdown below, along with a section on Junior Schools at the foot of the article. I will as usual publish a similar article on Medway Primary schools as soon as possible but am still waiting for some data.....

You will find further information on individual schools (mainly OFSTED) here, performance here, and general here

There is an increase of 472 in the number of places available in Kent Reception Classes from 2015 including, as with last year, a large number of temporary places created to ease pressure points. The overall effect has been to retain the county vacancy rate at 6%, just inside KCC’s target of 5-10%, but with a welcome increased proportion of children gaining their choice of school, as explained here  and performance here. 

At the other end of the scale to the pressures described above, the new Ramsgate Free School has 75% of its 60 places empty, half of the fourteen schools with 50% or more vacancies being academies or Free Schools, several of these being recently opened in areas where new housing will soon ensure they are filled. KCC carries out a rolling Commissioning Plan that looks at the whole of its school provision and plans for the future which is well worth a read if you have the patience to work through its 152 pages, but shows a far better sense of planning than the ad hoc methods of five or more years ago, with all the crises that accompanied it!  

I would encourage parents to apply to go on the waiting list for any of their preferences that have not been offered, as there will be movement over the next four months. This is your best chance of getting a school of your choice, as chances at appeal are generally very low because of Infant Class Legislation. For 2015 entry, of 426 primary appeals registered where Infant Class Legislation applied (the overwhelming majority), just 2 were upheld.

Please note that my division of the county into districts varies from KCC’s. The immense pressure on town school places in a KCC district, often difficult to resolve, is often hidden by vacancies in the more rural hinterland. KCC retains its policy that the optimum size of an all through primary school is two forms of admission, and to only expand OFSTED Good or Outstanding schools, an ambition that is not fulfilled but is becoming easier with the rise in proportion of Good and Outstanding schools. However, most schools of all categories in areas under pressure have now been expanded where possible and it is often difficult to see where further increase can be made, except by Free Schools opening in unsuitable premises for a school.  To expand a school permanently by one whole class of 30 requires there to be space for seven classrooms, as the increase works through the school, together with recreation land, a massive demand on an individual school in a limited boundary.

I have tried to include as much detail as possible, but it is possible I have left out something of importance, or else made errors in such an extensive survey, in which case please feel free to contact me and if appropriate I will amend the article.

The Districts are:

Page 2 - AshfordCanterbury (including Whitstable and Herne Bay); CranbrookDartford

Page 3 – Dover, Deal & SandwichGraveshamMaidstoneMalling (including Kings Hill)

Page 4 -Sevenoaks; Shepway (including Folkestone and Hythe); Swale (including Favesham and Sheppey)Swanley

Page 5 -ThanetTonbridge;Tunbridge Wells; Junior Schools

An extra 30 temporary places have been put in at Willesborough Infant School, of which 17 remain empty but, apart from this the only school with vacancies in the town is the new Finberry Primary Academy, with eight spaces, although these will fill as new housing developments in the area come on stream. Great Chart, with 41 first choices turned away, and Kingsnorth CofE Primary with 28, are also under extreme pressure because of building developments, and families buying new houses here as elsewhere are often in for a great shock when they discover there are no school places nearby. Repton Manor was provided with an additional 30 temporary places to ease the pressure in this part of town, but was still oversubscribed. Most of the 26 families with no school of their choice in town have been offered places at John Wallis Primary Academy, which has clearly not yet overcome the poor reputation of its predecessor school, as distinct from the successful secondary section.

In rural areas, the two most popular schools are the highly successful Challock Primary and Lady Joanna Thornhill, in Wye, with 13 and 12 first choices turned away respectively, as families are happy to travel distances to what they perceive as the best schools. Otherwise there are no problems in the rural hinterland, with the highest proportion of empty spaces in the county at 16%.

As in previous years, there is enormous polarisation in the nine Canterbury city schools, with five schools well oversubscribed, led by Wincheap Foundation School rejecting 17 first choices. Three schools share all 74 vacancies between them, each over half empty, Parkside Primary having two thirds of its 30 places vacant. Blean, just outside the City remains popular with 12 first choices turned away, but some of these will have been from within Canterbury itself. Otherwise, there appear few issues, with the overwhelming number of families getting their first choice.

Along the coast, there are increasing problems in Herne Bay as a result of new building development, with Hampton Primary having soared in popularity since becoming an academy, turning away 30 first choices for its 120 places, even though an additional 30 were added in 2014. Herne CofE Infants turned away 33 first choices for its 90 places, some of the surplus being picked up by Herne Bay Infants which is now full, so there are no vacancies in the town.  The only two schools along the coastline with empty spaces are Reculver, which appears to have some Herne Bay children allocated, and St Mary’s Catholic in Whitstable.

Only Goudhurst and Kilndown, the local OFSTED Outstanding school well oversubscribed turning away 17 first choices, but with just three schools with significant vacancies, Brenchley & Matfield, Horsmonden (down from its previous popularity under the last head) and Sandhurst. I have written about Cranbrook CofE, fully subscribed for 2016, several times previously, and so it is no surprise that the latest ‘permanent’ headteacher has left after less than two years, replaced by yet another interim head who, by my reckoning, is the eighth leader in less than two and a half years. Two years ago it was to become an academy sponsored by the Canterbury Diocese, but there is now no mention of this.
3% vacancies in the whole borough, the large majority in two town schools, Temple Hill and Wentworth. These are two of the three schools along with Brent Primary, that have seen an additional 90 temporary places created after applications were received to ease the pressure. Without them there would have been a severe overall shortage. Temple Hill has 23 children allocated by KCC who did not apply for the school. The other two schools with vacancies are Knockhall Academy and Sutton at Hone with 12.  Fleetdown turned away 53 first choices sharing the position of most oversubscribed school in Kent, Dartford Bridge Community (23) and Our Lady’s Catholic (20) also proving popular.

Although there is a comfortable 9% overall surplus of places in Dover, four town schools are very popular, each turning away more than 15 disappointed first choices: Charlton CofE (having survived a temporary plunge into Special Measures in 2013, but now back to Good); Shatterlocks Infants; River; and St Martin’s, the last two having Outstanding OFSTED’s in this District with the best OFSTED record in the county. Most of the vacancies concentrated in three schools, Aylesham, Green Park, and Whitfield Aspen, although the latter’s spaces were part of a temporary expansion of 20 places.

Every child in Deal and Sandwich’s 19 schools was offered one of their choices, with no significant oversubscription in any school, 13% vacancies overall.

Just 3 places available in the urban area (rounding off to 0.26%) all at Tymberwood Academy, with 78 families getting none of their choices, by some way the highest figure in Kent. I have argued for years this is consistently Kent’s most pressured area (usually along with Maidstone, see below) and this year 90 late (i.e. not planned for) places were created, 30 each at Singlewell, St John’s and Westcourt, just averting a disaster. Last year, Singlewell had the smallest catchment distance in Kent for 2015, at less than 200 yards, so the expansion will have removed this peril. Most oversubscribed school is as usual St Joseph’s Catholic, turning away 37 first choices, with Cecil Road and St John’s Catholic on 31 (would have been far higher but for the expansion), Shears Green Infants on 30, Holy Trinity CofE on 25, Riverview Infants on 18 and St Botolph’s on 16. Four schools account for the large majority of the Local Authority allocations - Westcourt with 25 (because of its expansion to cater for these), Whitehill (still recovering from the scandals) with 21, and Chantry and Tymberwood Academy with 13 – although at 49 out of the 1168 placements, the number of third choices offered in the town is also considerably the highest proportion in Kent. Another problem with Gravesham is that it has the highest proportion of low performing schools in the county, so there is considerable parental pressure to avoid certain schools.

Each year I am contacted by parents offered absurd alternatives as they have no school of their choice, often from Northfleet, given schools the other side of the Borough at Tymberwood or Whitehill, or else over the A2 and into the countryside at Istead Rise. Such a pity that KCC refused to put in a new school in Northfleet when it had the funding opportunity a few years back. Gravesham is an area attracting incomers and they often have a torrid time getting a manageable school, last year including one moving into Higham offered Istead Rise, a journey by road of 8 miles, not possible by public transport, so a taxi was to be provided. There will be further grief ahead for 2016 as more families move into the area.

The Gravesham villages are a little better, with two of the seven schools having vacancies, Istead Rise, which has had a terrible history in recent years, and Vigo in the far south tip of the Borough. Cobham, Outstanding OFSTED, is the only seriously oversubscribed school rejecting 30 first choices.

Just one vacancy in one school in urban Maidstone, at Tree Tops Academy. Most oversubscribed school is the OFSTED Outstanding St Michael’s Infants with 35 first choices losing out, closely followed by Brunswick House (Requires Improvement!) with 32. Other popular schools are: Senacre Wood, 21; Allington and St John’s CofE, 16; and East Borough (the only Maidstone school to have been expanded, by 30 places to 90 admit 90 children) and Thurnham CofE Infants both with 14 oversubscribed. 58 children got no school of their choice, all but four being allocated to Barming, Palace Wood and Tree Tops. Barming is in Special Measures, with a temporary headteacher, and recently and unsurprisingly failed its latest monitoring Inspection, the school now to be taken over by Allington Primary.

Jubilee Primary Free School appears to be struggling, having been allowed to admit 60 pupils in 2015 when Planning permission did not apply, but has been reduced to 30 by the Council this year, although just 7 first choices were turned away. Clearly it is not going to take off until it has good permanent premises which at present do not appear to be on the horizon.

Just outside the town, Loose is one of the two most oversubscribed primary schools in the County, with 53 first choices turned down, many being attracted from South Maidstone. The school has clearly having recovered from a difficult time a few years ago when some parents were removing their children from the school. Boughton Monchelsea turning away 21 first choices and East Farleigh 12 are the other seriously oversubscribed schools, with seven of the 20 schools having vacancies. The new Langley Park Primary currently has 22 offers for its 60 places in its first year of operation, but this state will not last as the building development it is built to serve grows. The pressure on places can be seen from the 13 Local Authority allocations made to the school, with some children who will need to be bussed or taxied from the other side of town.

This is geographically a widespread mainly rural area, apart from Kings Hill, West Maidstone and East and West Malling. Three new primary academies were opened by the Valley Invicta Trust last year, each with an intake of 30 children to meet new housing developments, the two at Holborough Lakes and Kings Hill already being full this year. I assume all three have been designed with room for expansion. Most popular school is Offham oversubscribed by 20 first choices followed by Mereworth with 17, Lunsford 12, and Leybourne St’s Peter and Paul CofE and Ryarsh both with ten. 13 of the 28 schools have vacancies, most at the new Valley Invicta Leybourne Chase with 20 out of 30, and Borough Green 19.

None of the five town schools have vacancies, but levels of oversubscription have fallen across the board. Most oversubscribed this year is Lady Boswell’s CofE, turning away 24 fist choices, Riverhead Infants having fallen to 10, down from the heady days of 2014, when it was 69 and Kent’s most popular school that year, presumably as parents are making more logical applications. St John’s CofE is at 11, and St Thomas’ Catholic at 7, with Sevenoaks Primary for the first time in my memory turning away no first choices at all.

Out in the country, which stretches to the north and West of Sevenoaks town, there is still considerable pressure with just 5 of the 23 schools having vacancies, most at Seal (recently doubled in size to an intake of 60, to pick up the overspill from Sevenoaks), half empty for 2016, and Edenbridge, 27 empty places. However, there are just two schools with rejected first choices in double figures, Fawkham – 18, and Chiddingstone – 17.

Surprisingly, a much improved situation in Folkestone from last year, even with Cheriton not having the 30 extra places put in in 2015. The number of children allocated schools they hadn’t applied to has fallen noticeably from 38 to 23, spread across the town. In the same way, the number of first choices rejected fell from 150 to 91. Sandgate is still the most popular school, with 37 first choices rejected, although this is close to half of 2015’s 67, when the school was most popular in Kent. Other popular schools are Stella Maris Catholic (17), St Eanswythe’s CofE (16), and Folkestone Academy (13). Martello Grove Academy is struggling to attract numbers with just 8 of its 30 places filled, the headteacher having been redeployed from a difficult time at Furness Special School by sponsors Lilac Sky. Cheriton, which last year picked up an extra class at the request of KCC, has now returned to its normal 60, and is full with 51 first preferences and nine seconds taking up all the places.

Plenty of places across Hythe, Romney Marsh and  the rest of the District, a total of 15%, second highest in the County, most at Brenzett (Special Measures), with 70% of its spaces vacant. The only significantly oversubscribed school is St Augustine’s RC, Hythe, turning away 10 first choices.

Most oversubscribed school in Sittingbourne is Canterbury Road turning away 21 first choices, followed by Grove Park, 14 and Kemsley Primary Academy, 13. Tunstall CofE doubled in size to 60 last year, but is still oversubscribed for 2016 admission, having re-opened in purpose built new premises last month. Just four out of 14 schools with vacancies, nearly all at Lansdowne with 18. Plenty of places on the Isle of Sheppey, with just three of the ten schools full. Queenborough at 18 first choices turned away is the most popular. No serious problems in the villages, although nine of the 16 schools are full. 

In Faversham, just five places left in Bysing Wood Primary out of the eight primary schools, which also had four of the five children allocated by KCC. Pressure on places is such that KCC considered expanding the school earlier in the year, but decided against it, possibly because of its lack of popularity. However, Ethelbert Road, OFSTED Outstanding, was the only school heavily oversubscribed turning away 27 disappointed first choices.

One of the easiest areas to gain a school of your choice, providing it is not Crockenhill, 26 first choices oversubscribed. No other school more than 4 oversubscribed, with half having vacancies including Halstead with 12 of its 30 places not taken up in spite of its recent ‘Good’ OFSTED Outcome.

In recent years, one of the most pressured Districts, but an additional 90 places have been created by the extension of St George’s CofE Foundation (secondary) to become an all through school (another 60, see more details here), and 30 places added at Birchington CofE. Whilst these ensure there are 45 places vacant across the 28 schools, they are all in just five schools, two of them run by the controversial TKAT Academy Trust (various references elsewhere on this site): 24 at Drapers Mills Primary Academy; and 54 at Dame Janet Primary Academy. Apart from 16 at Ellington Infants’ (oversubscribed last year), the remainder are at the two new schools with 21 at St George’s (but see my note on why I believe its popularity will rise sharply), and 45 of the 60 places at Ramsgate Free School, which opened in 2015 with 26 children. This school like many other Free Schools is suffering in its early years, as it has no settled premises, and a recent news item describes how it continues to share premises and facilities with the Chilton Academy Primary School, which has fallen sharply in popularity over the same period, from being third most popular Thanet primary in  2015, being oversubscribed by 34 first choices, to turning away just three in 2016.  Most popular school again is Holy Trinity & St John’s CofE, with 38 disappointed first choices, followed by: St Crispin’s Community Infants, 34; Callis Grange Infants, 30; Newington, 28; Palm Bay, 27; and Priory Infants, 21.
Tonbridge is very tight again for 2016, with just 10 vacancies in two rural schools, East Peckham and Shipbourne. The delay in opening the new Bishop Chavasse Free School set back to September 2017, has obviously exacerbated the pressures. However, all but 22 of the 608 applications were awarded one of their three choices, 20 of these being allocated to Long Mead Community. Most oversubscribed school is Sussex Road, 24 first choices rejected, followed by Stocks Green with 16 and Slade, just two years ago the third most popular school in Kent, down to 11.
Just 8 places empty this year, all at St Augustine’s Catholic, although 903 out of the 947 children received one of their three choices, most of the remainder, 29, being allocated by KCC to Temple Grove Academy. Most oversubscribed school is the ever popular Claremont, turning away 37 first choices, followed by St James’ CofE Infant with 26, and Langton Green with 18.
These tend to have a defined intake from paired Infant Schools whose pupils have priority for spaces. However, some families in all through primary schools who may not be particularly happy with their current school, or who have moved into the area, also take the opportunity to apply for additional or vacant places, with the result that 15 of the 28 Junior Schools in Kent are oversubscribed, most by small numbers. The three most popular are: Christ Church CofE Junior, 22 first choices turned away, and St Saviour’s CofE Junior, with 12, both from Thanet: along with Whitstable & Seasalter Endowed, with eleven. 
Just a few minor changes in Admission Numbers, I suspect to ensure all children transferring from the linked Infant School, are given places. Joyden's Wood Junior is the only significant change, up for some reason from 70 to 83. 
Last modified on Wednesday, 11 January 2017 23:47


  • Comment Link Friday, 20 May 2016 23:32 posted by Whitehill Parent

    Is it true that the pervious head of Whitehill Primary School in Gravesend is facing a Tribunal to judge her suitability for teaching. What a disgrace. PETER: So I understand

  • Comment Link Friday, 20 May 2016 23:28 posted by Georgina

    We were one of a small number of families allocated to Kings Farm Primary in Gravesend, by Kent Council, which had a terrible reputation a few years ago. Invited in to have a look round we were bowled over by the friendliness of our reception, the enthusiasm of staff and children for their school, excellent behavior, good teaching that we saw, bright cheerful displays including good work by the children, and above all high standards of work being carried out by the children who are a credit to their school. Our child is now looking enthusiastically to joining the school, which is full, in September. In contrast some of the alternatives still fill us with dread!

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