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Monday, 15 May 2017 09:38

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


Plenty of vacant places across the District, with just five of the 36 schools oversubscribed by more than two places. Charlton, Dover (most recent OFSTED, Good, up from Special Measures in 2013, now taken over by Diocese of Canterbury Academy Trust), has 15 first choices turned away; River has 12; Kingston and Ringwould (OFSTED Outstanding) has 11; Deal Parochial has 10; and Warden House, Deal, nine. Many of the schools are small, so there is only an average of four empty spaces per school, but they include Goodnestone which has only one pupil for its ten places, in spite of its Good OFSTED and sound KS2 results. The previous year it attracted seven. The explanation quite simply appears too few Reception age pupils in the area, as neighbouring schools also suffer from small intakes, notably Eythorne Elvington, 6 out of 20 filled; Nonington with half its 12 places filled; and Aylesham, 35 out of 60.
The usual three schools are significantly oversubscribed: Ethelbert Road, 16 first choices turned away & Sheldwich, 12, both OFSTED Outstanding; and Davington, 13, together with Ospringe, 6. Of the other five, all have vacancies apart from St Mary of Charity, its places topped up by 5 LAACs, most recent OFSTED Special Measures. OFSTED is not an infallible guide as proved by Bysing Wood, which had a bad time some years ago and has never been popular since, but has still been enlarged by 30 places to 60.  78% these remain unfilled in spite of a second consecutive Good OFSTED. 
For 2016, there was just one school with vacancies in urban Gravesend & Northfleet, this year there are 8 out of 18, as the number of applications fell by 50 children to 953, 5% of the total.  The two Catholic schools, which led the field in 2016,  have both slipped in popularity and, although St Joseph’s Northfleet still has 26 first preferences turned away (37 in 2016), St John’s is down to three from 31. Most popular school is now Cecil Road, oversubscribed by 34 children for its 54 places. Next are Shears Green and St Botolph’s, also both in Northfleet with 7. The dip in numbers after last year’s places crisis certainly a welcome respite for local families, as opening of the new Hope Community School, to be run by the New Generation Schools Trust, and evangelical Christian group has been delayed a year until 2018.

The large fall in pupil numbers has created plenty of vacancies in eight schools, Chantry having 29 of its 60 places free, its recent OFSTED seeing the school jump two levels from Special Measures to Good, under the Greenacre Academy Trust, having come too late for the admission process. Copperfield Academy, which for some reason expanded by 30 places to 90 for the 2017 entry, still has 29 places free, in spite of being allocated 8 of the 20 Gravesham LAACs. It has now appointed as headteacher Kevin Holmes, until recently head of Istead Rise (see below). It is unfortunate that the school cannot spell its own head’s name correctly on its website!  Westcourt has 24 of its 60 places vacant.

In the countryside, Cobham is the only seriously oversubscribed school, turning away 35 first choices. Istead Rise has still not thrown off its previous dreadful reputation when run by Meopham Community Academy, now Swale Academy Trust run, and has seen its number of vacancies triple to 29 out of 60. Other schools with vacancies are Culverstone Green, Shorne and Vigo Village.

In 2016 urban Maidstone, largest of my divisions in Kent with 30 schools, had just one vacancy in one school. For 2017 there are eleven schools with vacancies. Most popular school is East Borough, with 34 disappointed families, the overspill exacerbated by a reduction in intake by 30 places to 90. It is  followed by St John’s CofE with 32, St Michael’s CofE Infant with 25, Brunswick House with 15, and Allington with 11. Thurnham Infants, frequently a pressure point in recent years, is down to 3.

There is a 5% fall in Year R pupil numbers since 2016. Molehill Primary (previously run by the disastrous AET chain, now by Leigh Academies) has 21 vacancies, or 47% of its 45 places. Barming and Holy Family Catholic have 43%, all three academies with a recent Special Measures judgement clearly having an effect. Next comes the three year old Jubilee Primary with 9 vacancies or 30% of its total of 30. Jubilee, run by an Evangelical Group was proposed for expansion to 60 places, supported by KCC last year, when the pressure was on, but it is clear this is not a popular option and perhaps should not be encouraged again. Then come Tree Tops with 29% (also previously AET now Leigh) and Aylesford (Valley Invicta Trust) 18%, in spite of a Good OFSTED before primary applications were submitted, but previously in Special Measures. The 11 vacancies would have been 24 were it not for 13 LAACs, ninth largest figure in Kent. Southborough Primary almost filled, but had 28 LAACs, the largest figure in the county.

Only 6 of the 20 primary schools in the rural villages and towns were oversubscribed, Loose with its recent OFSTED Outstanding, the only one heavily so, with 24 first choice children not accepted. Next is Bredhurst, on the Medway border, with an Outstanding OFSTED as long ago as 2011, with 9.

Outside the town, there are four schools with half or more of their places vacant, suffering a damaging 9% fall in Year R numbers since 2016. Ulcombe with just four of its 15 places filled, and Leeds & Bromfield CofE five out of 15, both in spite of Good OFSTED Inspections last year improved from the previous Requires Improvement, are clearly struggling to attract pupils. The other two are the normally oversubscribed Platts Heath, six out of 13, and Sutton Valence, 15 out of 30.

This straggling part of Tonbridge and Malling, wrapping round Maidstone has few common features amongst its 25 primary schools. The three new Valley Invicta Primary Academies, in high growth areas, which were funded to provide SEN Units for children on the Autistic Spectrum, then disgracefully reneged on their commitment, have eased the pressures on the four established schools nearby, although Discovery, Kings Hill and West Malling primaries, Leybourne St Peter CofE, and Snodland are still all oversubscribed, along with another 10 schools. Most popular are: Brookfield Infants in East Malling, 22 first choices not offered; Ryarsh, OFSTED Outstanding  with 20; Lunsford, also East Malling with 18; and Discovery, Kings Hill and Leybourne St Peter & St Paul VA both with 15.

Just two schools with a significant number of vacancies: Valley Invicta (Leybourne Chase) with 32 out of 60; and Wouldham 23 also out of 60.

Last modified on Friday, 16 April 2021 06:28


  • 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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