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Saturday, 19 March 2011 00:00

Empty Spaces in Old Style Academies KOS March 2011

Another knotty problem for Michael Gove.

Following Kent secondary school allocations on 1st March just gone, 9% of places in Year Seven were left empty or occupied by children who had not applied for the schools in question. The Audit Commission considers there should be no more than 5% empty spaces in any area or authority. So there is a problem in Kent. However, with 49 of the100 Kent secondary schools either Academies or well on the way and another 36 Foundation or Voluntary Aided schools partially independent of KCC,  the county has lost all control of its ability to plan numbers of places to fit the population, and so has no way of meeting government targets...... (read more)

At allocation, 413 Kent children were placed into schools they had not applied for, as their preferred choices were full. If we ignore these, there was a total of 1968 empty places in provision for the new intake into Kent schools. What will be of special interest to Mr Gove is that 568 of these places are concentrated in just 9 of the old style Academies, most of which have been the subject of massive rebuilding programmes and are clearly unpopular with parents and children. All these Academies are more than a quarter empty, with Skinners Kent Academy in Tunbridge Wells, New Line Learning Academy in Maidstone being more than a half empty before children who hadn’t applied for them were shipped in. 

However, even after allocating possibly unwilling children to these schools, we see New Line Learning Academy with 47% empty spaces, Spires Academy in Sturry with 35%, Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate with 31%, and Skinners Kent Academy, Orchard Academy, Swanley, and Dover Christ Church Academy all over a quarter empty. And after appeals and waiting lists for more popular schools come into play, the number of gaps in these Academies will only increase. As schools are funded primarily according to numbers some of these Academies are surely not financially viable, unless they are receiving a hidden subsidy. 

If Kent is to reduce its number of empty spaces to the target 5%, then Year Seven then empty spaces need to be removed from the least popular schools, to allow the most oversubscribed ones to expand according to government policy. Which Government run Academies will Mr Gove consider shrinking or closing down?

Last modified on Saturday, 24 May 2014 20:07

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