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Monday, 15 May 2017 09:38

Oversubscription & Vacancies in Kent Primary schools: Allocation for September 2017


See article in Kent on Sunday, 27 May 2017

2017 has been a very good year for Primary school admissions in Kent with 97.4% of families being awarded a school place of their choice, up from 96.6% in 2016. This has been brought about by a combination of 267 extra places created since the 2016 allocations including 30 in one new school, together with a remarkable fall of 679 children or 3.8% in the total applying for places. Overall there are 11.1% vacant places in the Reception classes, rising sharply from 6.5% in 2016. This article follows on from my first look at the general data, here, and explores the pressure areas looking at oversubscription and vacancies across the county.

There are still local pressures focused on several towns including: Tonbridge with just one vacancy in one school but the new Bishop Chavasse Free School will ease matters; Ashford, two vacancies, apart from 14 in a school on the outskirts; Sevenoaks,  full apart from 18 places in one school on the outskirts of town; and Tunbridge Wells just one school with 24 vacancies. However, overall there is a far better picture than last year. Contrast these with: Ashford Rural; Faversham; Maidstone Rural; Shepway Rural & Hythe; and Swanley & District; all with a fifth or more places empty in their schools. 

Once again the most popular schools vary considerably from last year, with just Great Chart, Ashford (3rd in 2016) and Fleetdown in Dartford (first last year) occurring in top 10s for both years. Most popular school is Slade Primary in Tonbridge, turning away 43 first choices, followed by Great Chart with 41. You will find the full list of high preferences below.

Slade             Great Chart

At the other end of the scale, one unfortunate school with a Good OFSTED, and sound KS2 results had no first choices, and offered just one place (!), whilst another 17 schools have more than half of their places empty, a sharp rise on last year. As financial pressures mount in schools, such low numbers would become critical if repeated.

I look at each district in more detail below, with a brief note on admission to Junior Schools.  The outcomes for Medway primary schools will follow shortly…...

 There are many factors affecting a school’s popularity, alongside a Good OFSTED and Test performance. New housing development in many parts of the county can introduce pressures ahead of new school provision. One other factor that can produce a one off dramatic effect on demand is the number of siblings which can very sharply year on year, who have priority for admission in most schools, as discussed here. I have been very conscious this year of the increasingly high proportion of the parents who wish to discuss primary school admissions with me, citing OFSTED rating as their key criterion.

Where a child is offered none of their three chosen schools KCC offers a place in a school with vacancies and is counted as a Local Authority Allocated child (LAAC). As noted in my previous article: ‘Of those 444 children who were not offered one of their preferred schools, nearly half failed to make use of all available preferences, limiting Kent’s ability to offer them a preferred school’. So one must be careful not to read too much into this figure.

Please note that Reception Class Appeals will only succeed in exceptional cases; last year there were just 12 out of 248 upheld where Infant Class Legislation applied. I am aware of several of these and can confirm that the reasons will not apply to the vast majority of appellants. For the overwhelming majority of disappointed applicants the only chance of success, albeit usually a small one, is through the school waiting list.

At this time of exceedingly tough pressure on school budgets, failure to attract a good intake of pupils can be devastating as staff may have to be laid off or not replaced, if the money is not there to  pay them. Seven Kent primary schools have had at least two years being half empty or more.

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

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.

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.

First Choices
Slade Primary Tonbridge 60 43  11

Great Chart Primary

Ashford 60 41 41 
Cobham Primary Gravesham 30 35 30 
Cecil Road Primary Gravesham 54 34 31 
East Borough Primary Maidstone 60 34 14 
St Mildred's Infant Broadstairs 90 34 30 
St John's CofE Primary Maidstone 60 32 16 
St Mary's CofE Primary
Folkestone 60 30 0 (6 vacancies) 
Fleetdown Primary Dartford 90 29 53 
West Hill Primary Dartford 72 29 13 
Langton Green  Tunbridge W 60 29 18 

 The Districts are:

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

Page 3 – Dover, Deal & Sandwich; FavershamGraveshamMaidstoneMalling (including Kings Hill)

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

Page 5 -ThanetTonbridge;Tunbridge WellsJunior Schools

KCC carries out a rolling Commissioning Planthat 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!  

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 risein 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.

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Last modified on Friday, 16 April 2021 06:28


  • Comment Link Tuesday, 06 June 2017 18:24 posted by Claire

    When do you think you will have Medway figures available. Get much more information from this site than Medway council!. PETER: Working on them now, but other important and current news items keep arriving. Target Sunday. Headline, vacancies have gone up from 7% to 12% due to falling numbers.

  • Comment Link Thursday, 01 June 2017 08:31 posted by Ex Knockhall Parent

    I have moved my daughter from Knockhall, after she had a series of supply teachers who had no interest in teaching. The school showed no concern when I complained, saying that was all they had.

    Do they have to wait years for an OFSTED Inspection and children's education ruined before someone does something?

  • Comment Link Tuesday, 30 May 2017 05:42 posted by Alison

    Like many other local families, I have been allocated John Wallis Junior Academy - previously Linden Grove in Special Measures and in spite of new branding, little appears to have changed. We also have Beaver Green, also Special Measures but still turns away first choices, and two of the most popular schools in Kent, Great Chart and Kingsnorth. You describe every school in the area as being full, and still housebuilding is taking place, the new Finberry School also full to bursting. What hope is there for us and families next year? PETER: The comprehensive KCC Commissioning Plan (link above) page 82, shows the pressure in South and SE Ashford was forecast this year, with an overall shortage of places. . A new school at Chilmington Green, proposed opening 2019 will serve the new development in the area. The pressure will only get worse, and John Wallis will soak up the surplus I am afraid. Not much comfort, but the senior school is good and well-run, so there is the capacity to improve. Sorry.

  • Comment Link Saturday, 27 May 2017 21:41 posted by Maidstone HT (details supplied)

    Thanks for this, Peter. I am head of a school just outside the most popular ones, and was shocked to see my numbers fall. Having read this, I have checked with others in the same situation, and we are all suffering. Why has KCC not told us the truth about falling numbers instead of allowing us to think we are failing to attract. PETER: You are right. If the most popular schools stay popular, others will see numbers fall at twice the rate!

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 24 May 2017 04:55 posted by Karen

    Knockhall Primary, Dartford. You say that the school is recovering from its disastrous ownership under Lilac Sky. On the contrary. A lot of inexperienced (unqualified?) teachers are not coping, foul language is being used by some "professionals" in front of the children. We are told that teachers are very unhappy, certainly we as parents are. There is a growing deluge of parents moving their children from the school, including teaching assistants that work there! As you say elsewhere, children only get one chance of a decent education. Not if they come to Knockhall! PETER I have amended my reference to Knockhall above, to reflect this, as it is not the only concern I have received.

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