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Thursday, 01 April 2010 19:07

Secondary School Admissions and Oversubscription: KOS March 2010

Kent County Council figures show an increase in the number of children being offered their first choice secondary school on 1st March, up to 80%.  However, this means that over 3000 children did not get their chosen school, in many cases producing family heartbreak.

Schools in both Kent and Medway show wide fluctuations in popularity, with Academies making much of the news.  Eighteen schools each turned away more than fifty children who put them in first place, whilst at the other end of the scale six schools were over half empty before KCC added to their numbers with children who had been given none of their choices.

For the third year running, Leigh Technology Academy (Dartford) was top of the oversubscription lists, with 218 disappointed first choice applicants. Second was Skinners School (but see below), third  Valley Park, Maidstone, centre of a major row over fullness last year, with 112 turned away, an even larger number than 2009. Other schools oversubscribed by more than 50 first choice applicants are (in order):  Homewood (Tenterden); North School (Ashford); Judd School; Thomas Aveling (Rochester); Fulston Manor  then Westlands (both Sittingbourne); Bennett Memorial (TW); Folkestone Academy; Tonbridge Grammar School, Brockhill Park (Hythe);  Sandwich Technology College; Mascalls (Paddock Wood); Charles Dickens (Broadstairs); Gillingham Academy, Weald of Kent Grammar and Hayesbrook (Tonbridge).

Whilst these  figures are normally the best guide to popularity, the Skinners School figure is considerably inflated as many of their first choices were actually crowded out by children who did not score enough to get into The Judd School but then secured places at Skinners, as their second choice. These are the vagaries of the super selection debate.

Four of the half empty schools: Christchurch (Ashford); New Line Learning (Maidstone); Skinners Kent Academy (TW); and Wildernesse (Sevenoaks) are hoping for a better future as they are either new Academies or about to become Academies. The school with the greatest fall in first choices is Wilmington Enterprise College (currently in Special Measures), also due to become an Academy, so the programme is clearly fulfilling its intention of targeting problem schools. Indeed, the new Longfield Academy has obviously turned the corner as far as parents are concerned and has the greatest increase in first choices (67) of any Kent or Medway school.

The pressure of out of county children taking up places in Kent grammar schools is once again greatest in the North West of the county , with 241 children taking up places in the four Dartford Grammar Schools (36 of these coming from as far away as Lewisham) as opposed to just 53 in the three West Kent super selectives.  My view on the cause of the pressure in West Kent grammars is starting to swing towards the intense coaching culture being the prime source of the problem.

Many of these figures will have changed this week as parents had to decide whether to accept places offered and there will be happiness for some, offered places off the waiting lists. As many as 700 further children may gain places through the appeal procedure, although this stressful process goes on until July for some.

One last statistic: 151 Kent children are bound for Medway schools with 116 coming the other way. School planners are required by government to reduce the number of empty places in schools and spend much time making decisions based on local population figures, when choices often cross boundaries.  The more I see figures such as the above, the more I become convinced that parents en masse have a wisdom about which are the best non-selective schools and their collective voice should be listened to.  I am not so sure this applies to grammar schools, where some parents chase the top scoring schools without stopping to look at the underlying factors.

Last modified on Sunday, 22 April 2012 16:24

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