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Tuesday, 12 April 2011 22:30

Pressure on Primary Places in West and North West Kent

With an increase of 25% in the number of children not offered any of their choices in Kent Infant Schools (even taking the predicted increased numbers into account), The general picture is outlined here. I am still unclear where all the major pressures are. KCC confirm they have put in an extra 354 places to help ease these, asserting that this is the result of advance planning. This is directly contradicted by the headteacher of Claremont Primary School in Tunbridge Wells, who states, as quoted on the front page of 'Your Tunbridge Wells' this week: 

"The Local Authority have recently informed us that there has been an unprecedented and unexpected increase in the number of people seeking Reception places across the town this year. As a result they have asked us to take an additional class for September 2011 in order to meet their statutory duties. This is combined with increases in the number of admissions for three other Primary schools....

Subject to planning, they will provide us with a mobile classroom and funding, and have already visited to investigate location and services. This is not something we have any choice over but we are aware that we consistently have to turn away many local families, and for this year that will be less pronounced, to the joy of many. As you would expect of us, we have been hard at work exploring every strategic and organisational aspect of this change, setting deadlines and tasks, and identifying challenges. We are informed that this is for one year only so the ‘bulge’ class could pass slowly through the school over the next seven years.  Careful planning will ensure that this scenario is manageable. I like to presume that none of you are short of a brain cell or two so, like us, you will be wondering whether the same thing will happen again in September 2012. The truth is we don’t know, it might, or it might not. It’s out of our hands. We have to consider it and do what we can to prepare for that eventuality but the local authority are reacting to an immediate problem rather than actively planning the permanent expansion of some schools. They are certainly not seeming to have any strategic plans or cash for new buildings anywhere, but we will be given a double mobile this autumn. You can rest assured that Governors and senior staff will be actively considering future strategy whilst ensuring that we get it right for September and the thirty additional children. To save time explaining it to an hundred people, the three Reception classes should start together in September as we do for the two now. We hope to locate them all downstairs. But, if planning or classrooms don’t happen quickly, it may be that the youngest pupils start later in the year as we used to do i.e. January. We aren’t certain on that yet but we can guarantee that once in school they will be in the classroom alongside the other two Reception classes. Therefore, an older class will be in the mobile but that too needs debate and may be coloured by any sense we can get of the future. Sorry for a slight delay in informing you all. We got the news two weeks ago but couldn’t communicate it until the day parents receive their offers of places".

Hardly future planning! I am still being contacted by primary school parents, but am having to wait for the full picture for an FOI request due to be released by May 5th.  Initial thoughts are that once again KCC has resolved pressure in Tunbridge Wells by creating extra places in popular schools, and also probably in Kings Hill. Other parts of Kent are less fortunate, with additional places in North West Kent being created in less popular schools, and in Thanet I am not aware of action being taken to ease the problem. As to why these particular decisions are taken I prefer not to speculate until I see the full picture.

Last modified on Sunday, 06 March 2016 05:55

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