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Saturday, 25 March 2017 18:58

Oversubscription and vacancies in Kent non-selective schools on allocation for September 2017

See article in Kent on Sunday: 1st April 2017 

This article looks across Kent to the main oversubscription and vacancy situations in non-selective schools District by District. Thanet is the area under most pressure, with not a single vacancy in any of its six schools on allocation of places on 1st March. 166 Thanet children have no school of their choice, over a quarter of the county total. The District also contains two of the county’s three most oversubscribed schools, St George’s CofE Foundation and King Ethelbert’s Schools. The other is Valley Park, Maidstone.

    St Georges Foundation   Valley 2

Five other Districts have just one non-selective schools with vacancies: Dartford; Sevenoaks; Shepway (two spaces); Swale; and Tunbridge Wells. It is not surprising that Roger Gough, KCC Cabinet Member for Education described this as a 'challenging year' for secondary school allocation.

At the other end of the scale, Dover District has a quarter of its Year 7 desks vacant and six schools in the county have over a third of their places unfilled. 

I look at individual schools below, mixed in with various news items and a look at cross border movement both in and out of Kent. 

This is an expansion of my previous article on allocations, published at the beginning of March here. You will find an article describing the grammar school situation below, with Medway to follow. You will find 2016 non-selective data here.

Kent has seen an extra 576 net places put into its non-selective schools since 2016, to meet rising rolls in several areas, although it is clearly becoming increasingly difficult to provide places in schools that families want their children to attend.

The number of pupils offered their first choice rose by 87, but the number being offered none of their four choices also increased, by 188 children to 616.

There will be considerable churning between now and September, as children drop out of the system, and through waiting lists and successful appeals (126 out of 357 non-selective appeals in 2016) which all create spaces to be filled.

The District sections describe the picture on allocation day March 1st. Between now and September, many more places will become available after successful grammar school appeals. 

You will find further information on Individual Secondary Schools here, currently being updated.

 St George's CofE (Broadstairs)  227 186 
Valley Park  270 179 
King Ethelbert  160 128 
Fulston Manor  210 102 
St George's CofE (Gravesend)  180 81 
Maplesden Noakes  180 77  28 
Skinners' Kent Academy  180 74  30 
St Simon Stock 180 72 17
Westlands 285 67 5
Wye 90 64 12
St Anselm's 190 58 15
Charles Dickens 232 53 19
Herne Bay 265 52 14
Brockhill Park 288 52 10
Bennett Memorial 270 50 22
And ten further schools with 20 or more First Choices oversubscribed


Notes for details below:  (a) PAN is Planned Admission Number, the figure which determines how many places a school can offer before it is technically full; (b) OOC refers to Out Of County children seeking or being offered places in Kent schools (c) LAAC is a Local Authority Allocated Child, one placed by KCC in a school they did not apply for, as they received none of their application preferences.    

The Wye Free School, with the smallest secondary intake in Kent at 90 children, continues to increase in popularity and is the only Ashford school rejecting first choices, turning away 64 children. John Wallis Academy is also full, the other three schools each having plenty of spaces. Homewood School, which for some reason increased its Planned Admission Number by 20, taking it to 410, the largest PAN in the county (but see neighbouring Shepway) has 47 vacancies. It offered places to 27 East Sussex children.
There has been pressure in Canterbury since the closing of Chaucer Technology School three years ago although Community College Whitstable has 46 vacancies even after 25 LAACs of children. Another 39 LAACs went into Spires Academy, the only other school with vacancies, just 4. St Anselm’s Catholic, Herne Bay  and Canterbury Academy, remain the most popular schools,  with 58, 52 and 33 first choices rejected, respectively. A new Free School is planned to open on the Chaucer site in a couple of years, but the pressure in Canterbury City is now. However, with 59 Canterbury grammar school appeals being successful last year, there is likely to be considerable churning before September. The whole future of Spires Academy is unclear as its relationship with Simon Langton Girls unravels, the Executive Head of both having resigned. It is not performing well enough to stand alone, but will it prove attractive to a Multi-Academy Trust many of which are now avoiding picking up challenging schools.

Herne Bay High School is as usual heavily oversubscribed, turning away 52 first choices, its popularity underlined by having 95% of its offers going to first choices, the highest percentage in Kent.


Dartford has been under pressure since the sudden closure of Oasis Hextable Academy two years ago. By contrast, the Leigh University Technical College, for 14-18 students choosing a vocationally oriented school, has failed to attract half of its planned intake in any of its first three years since opening, dropping to a disastrous 25% this year. An OFSTED Inspection in January  recording the school as Good, completely fails to notice the small and sharply declining number of students. The rescue plan ditches the core philosophy and recruit primarily at age 11, so the Inspiration Academy at Leigh UTC has rapidly come into being, proving a fairly popular choice, attracting its full complement of 120 places with 9 first choices turned away. However, this has damaged Ebbsfleet Academy for, although performing well academically, it has never been popular and now has 40% of its new Year Seven places empty, the only non-selective school in Dartford with vacancies. The percentage would be smaller but the school has increased its PAN by 18 places for some strange reason. Many of these should vanish in future years with further developments for the Ebbsfleet Garden City, although another new school has been proposed for the town probably for 2020. The Inspiration venture gives Leigh academies control of 80% of non-selective places in the town, unfortunate if a child falls out with one of the schools! Although Leigh Academy itself is still the most oversubscribed school, turning away 41 first choices, this figure has been falling steadily year by year from a figure of 193 rejections in 2012. It is followed by Longfield Academy, 25; Inspiration, 9; and Wilmington Academy 6. Between them the three Leigh Academies offered places to 54 Bexley children, Dartford Science and Technology College adding another 17. It is likely that the large majority of the 72 Kent children taking up places in Bexley schools come from the Dartford District.
This comes at the other end of the scale, with Dover District having a quarter of its places empty, 20% of the total vacancies in Kent. Just two oversubscribed schools, surprisingly most popular being Dover Christ Church Academy, with 37 first choices rejected, the academy having turned around completely from 2016 when it had a sixth of its 150 places empty. Heading in the opposite direction is Sandwich Technology College for, even though it is still oversubscribed by 18 first choices, this is a far cry from the figure of 77 last year.

Astor College, Duke of York’s and SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy  in Walmer, all appear disaster areas, the first two being closely linked and having been run by the same Executive Principal until last summer. The SchoolsCompany Goodwin Academy which fell from Outstanding to Special Measures a few years ago, has now scrambled out of it but  clearly still inspires little confidence in families. It has 43% of Year 7 allocation places empty, the second highest percentage in Kent. This figure will increase as other more popular schools see vacancies arise. Astor College, which was issued with a government Warning Notice eighteen months ago for persistently low standards and failure to address them has also lost public confidence with 40% of its places empty.

However, the school with the highest percentage of empty desks in Kent by far is the Duke of York’s Royal Military School, a boarding Academy in Dover sponsored by The Army. The school has recently completed a £25 million building project built for an Admission Number of 104. The problem is surely related to the highly controversial reputation it carries which has now risen to the surface again. This has seen its intake sink to 12 Year 7 pupils on allocation at this stage, half the previous lowest figure, although historically this number increases considerably up to three times the original figure, with children transferring in at older age groups. This would still leave it two thirds empty. The school is able to reject pupils if it considers them unsuitable for boarding, and has refused places for 14 applicants by this process, although it identifies as a priority ‘Children at risk or with an unstable home environment’. No doubt its annual grant for 'Ministry of Defence Military Ethos', totalling £891,858 in 2016, assists any financial pressures but amounts to a lot of ethos.


Last year three schools increased size by a total of 69 places, this year another 79 at five non-selective schools, including 30 at Thamesview.  The only schools with vacancies are the two Northfleets’, both of which increased their PAN. The considerable pressure on places in the town have been eased by rural Meopham School, which has completely turned round from its previous unpopularity and poor performance,  was one of the highest performing non-selective schools in Kent at GCSE in 2016, is about to move into new purpose built premises, has increased its PAN, and is still oversubscribed pulling in new pupils from Gravesend and Northfleet, also reversing some of the outflow to Holmesdale, Longfield and Wrotham. The ludicrous and unworkable proposal to turn it into one of the new grammar schools if legislation permits has still not been scrapped. St George’s CofE continues to be one of the most oversubscribed schools in Kent, turning away 81 first choices this year, its popularity underlined by a recent strong OFSTED Report.
As I wrote last year, Maidstone is probably the most polarised town in Kent with heavily oversubscribed schools and others, notably New Line Learning and Swadelands with 106 vacancies between them. NLL has also had 50 LAACs which, along with Cornwallis Academy once the most popular school in the town but now the only other school with vacancies, is run by the Future Schools Trust. Both schools are set in recently completed purpose built premises, once again showing that this is not necessarily the solution to a school’s problems Do Future Schools have a future?  Valley Park is the second most oversubscribed school in Kent (179 first choices rejected), followed by Maplesden Noakes (sixth with 77) and St Simon Stock (eighth with 72) also proving extremely popular. Although there is considerable development in the town and current enormous pressure on primary places, I still doubt there is any overall shortage in the town for the next couple of years.  In 2018 (which may slip to 2019 or even 2020), the new six form entry Maidstone Science and Technology College opens on the same campus as Valley Park and Invicta Grammar (the core of the Valley Invicta Academy Trust) – one wonders about the traffic congestion! VIAT is now taking over Swadelands, now renamed Lenham School, but there are concerns in other local schools about the number of children with SEN who have left this school subsequently.  It will be interesting to say the least to see the impact of the new MSST on other local schools. It was originally planned for 2017, and if this had happened it would surely have been curtains for one of the two vulnerable schools.   
The Free Trinity School, now in its fourth year of operation, has proved hugely popular with parents and now open in new buildings, being 13 first choices oversubscribed for its 180 places even after having added 60 children to the 2016 PAN. The school offers up to 50% of its places to children attached to a Christian church, so this figure may have risen to 90 this year. Trinity competes with the much larger Knole Academy in the same town, also popular, but which has reduced its temporary intake number of 255 in 2016, back to 240. This has left it 33 first choices oversubscribed. 59 of those offered places came from across the County boundary in Bromley.  

The third Sevenoaks District school is the much underrated Orchards Academy, which had the fourth highest Progress 8 GCSE performance of any non-selective school in Kent. In spite of this, it still had 25 vacancies for its 120 places, losing many children to Knole.


The closure of Pent Valley School in Folkestone last summer has left just two local schools, Brockhill Park in Hythe, and Folkestone Academy. Folkestone Academy which has added 40 places over the past two years taking it to a PAN of 310, third largest in the county, has been left with 5 places vacant, in spite of 20 LAACs, showing its decline after heady days a few years ago, when it was one of the most oversubscribed schools in Kent even with Pent Valley open. Brockhill, which added 20 places last year, has now added a further 36 places to bring its PAN to 288, but is still 52 first choices oversubscribed. This will be the fourth largest intake in Kent, which along with neighbouring Homewood in Tenterden, gives this area three of the four biggest schools in the county.

Given the pressure on places at Brockhill it is no surprise to see the third Shepway school, Marsh Academy at New Romney, filled for the first time, and even be 20 places oversubscribed.

A new four form entry Free school, described as ‘fully comprehensive’  is proposed by Turner Schools, for the site of the closed Pent Valley school planned to start in 2019, although government bureaucracy appears to be delaying all progress on opening new schools, which is producing a number of critical situations.


Every school on Swale is full on allocation except for the ever struggling Oasis Isle of Sheppey Academy, which has 98 of its 390 places vacant even after 47 LAACs.  To be fair, this has the second largest PAN in Kent (having been overtaken by Homewood in Tenterden this year) with a planned admission number of 390. With the school having difficulty in looking attractive to aspiring island families there is extra pressure on all three Sittingbourne schools and, with the town being recognised as needing extra capacity, the problem is near breaking point. Fulston Manor, the fourth most oversubscribed school in Kent for the second year running has 102 disappointed first choices although, with both grammar schools full to overflowing, and historically few successful appeals on its restricted site (7 upheld out of 64 in 2016), there is likely to be little shift this year. Westlands, also heavily oversubscribed at 61 rejections (but down from 2016’s 91), is an enigma as it regularly reports no appeals held. Presumably all those looking for a place get offered one through waiting lists or simply fade away, some certainly being encouraged to join its partner in the Swale Academies Trust, Sittingbourne Community College. However, this is also oversubscribed for 2017, even after expanding by 30 places for the second successive year. At the east end of Swale in Faversham, the Abbey School is oversubscribed for the first time even after having expanded by 20 places.
The most problematic district in Kent by some way, with not a single place vacant anywhere on allocation. The pressure has been caused both by an influx of pupils and a massive polarisation of popularity.  Many parents try to avoid two schools, Hartsdown and Royal Harbour (damned by virtue of having absorbed the now closed Marlowe Academy) Academies. As a consequence these two were allocated 166 children who were given no school of their choice. This is more than a quarter of the total LAACs in the county. These children will include a large number In Care, dispatched by London Boroughs; others are children from the EC and refugees, all bringing their own challenges to the schools. As a direct consequence, three other schools are heavily oversubscribed, St George’s CofE; King Ethelbert; and Charles Dickens turning away 186, 126 and 53 first choices respectively. Charles Dickens’ last full Inspection – Special Measures, has proved no obstacle to its being seen as an escape route, and it has now been taken over by Barton Court Grammar School in Canterbury, providing the fourth type of leadership in less than three years! Underlining the pressure, St George’s is once again the most oversubscribed non-selective school in Kent, with King Ethelbert’s in third place. An extra 30 places at St George’s and Ursuline College (which usually just fills as this year) appears to have made little impact on the difficulties – except of course for the 30 families affected. Oddly, Royal Harbour is not an Academy despite its title, having been one of those schools caught up in the PFI bind, here and in subsequent articles, in its previous incarnation Ellington and Hereson School.
There are plenty of spare places in the District, apart from Wrotham School which, as usual was well oversubscribed with 29 children putting the school first have been turned away although usually most get in off waiting lists or on appeal. The most interesting pair of schools are Holmesdale Community College in Snodland and The Malling School, which became Federated when Holmesdale was bursting at the seams and Malling was limping along. The schools have now detached, with Malling thriving and is now oversubscribed with 15 first choices turned away.  Holmesdale is heading rapidly the other way having dispensed with its Headteacher leaving at Christmas, and the school having 75 vacancies or 42% of its PAN, the third highest percentage in the county. Aylesford School appears to be improving and has just 16 vacancies, fewer than recent years, although its intake includes offers to 28 LAACs. Holmesdale is taking in 24 Medway children, a third of its total, with Aylesford offering 27 Medway places.

Hadlow Rural Community School, another new Free School in its fourth year of operation, has now established itself and is oversubscribed for the first time, turning away 20 first choices. This is clearly having an effect on the Tonbridge Schools, with Hayesbrook, a consistently high performing boys’ school at GCSE with 35 vacancies, 23% of its PAN. In addition, Hayesbrook has been given 36 LAACs, the sixth highest figure in Kent. This must all be very worrying for the Brook Learning Trust, the multi-academy trust that runs Hayesbrook, Ebbsfleet Academy (see Dartford above) and High Weald Academy (see Tunbridge Wells below), all three of which have difficulty attracting pupils.

Hillview School for Girls has just filled as usual, but Hugh Christie, the town’s mixed school filled with 82% of its offers going to first choices, but was then allocated an additional 30 LAAC children, taking its total intake up to 191. I am unclear why the town has so many LAACS, 66 between them, more than nearly every whole District in Kent. Where were they all trying to go, especially when there does not appear a poor school in the town? But see Tunbridge Wells below.


The highly popular Skinners Kent Academy has reduced its intake by 30 from last year, perhaps because of pressure on space. Why else?  There is enormous pressure on places in the town, partly because the two Church Schools prioritise church connections rather than proximity. In particular, Bennett Memorial Diocesan School has offered places to 46 East Sussex children, ahead of the 50 first choices who were turned down on oversubscription criteria. St Gregory’s Catholic School is 37 first choices oversubscribed, although just nine from Sussex. However, with the reduced numbers, Skinners Kent Academy is the most oversubscribed turning away 74 first choices, seventh most oversubscribed in Kent. All these displaced children have to have gone somewhere, possibly to Tonbridge (above), or High Weald. The 58 Kent children who have been offered Uplands Community College in East Sussex will have come mainly from Tunbridge Wells District.

High Weald Academy in Cranbrook is still struggling badly for numbers, having made just 57 offers for its 180 places, including 20 LAACs, over a third of the total. This is another sharp fall from 2016, when there were 75 offers with just 7 LAACs, and it is difficult to see how the school will survive.

The final school in the area, Mascalls in Paddock Wood, remains popular and as usual filled this year mainly with first choice applications, confirming parental confidence in the school.


As always, there was much media publicity for the 810 out of county children taking up places in Kent schools, 355 of them to non-selective schools, most of which are identified above. A similar number, 322 are placed in schools outside Kent in other Local Authorities. These include 102 to East Sussex, most to the four large neighbouring comprehensive schools: Uplands Community College; Beacon Academy; Rye College and Robertsbridge Community College, well up on 2016’s 78. There are also: 72 to Bexley, mainly to the two Roman Catholic Schools; 60 to Oxted School in Surrey; and 49 to a variety of schools in Medway. 


Last modified on Monday, 14 June 2021 17:09

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