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Tuesday, 26 June 2012 10:15

St James' Appeal results make a nonsense of KCC policy in Tunbridge Wells - see also Bishops Down

I have expressed my views elsewhere on the decision by KCC to reduce the intake at St James CofE Infant School (Voluntary Aided) this year from 90 to 70, in order to fill places in other local schools. It was obvious to me that this decision was unsustainable at appeal and so it has proved. Last week, 20 appeals were upheld. I think it unlikely that the totally unnecessary grief and stress this has caused the families concerned will impinge on those responsible for implementing the current unofficial KCC policy of providing sufficient school places in an area with no slack to allow for the levels of popularity of some schools, or for anyone unfortunate enough to move into the area mid year. There was a county policy published in the Primary Strategy for Kent in 2006 to maintain a surplus of 5% in each district of the county, and this is again to be adopted as county policy accordin to the draft Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent, which looks at forecasts in primary and secondary school numbers over the next five years. In the meantime, families in areas such as Tunbridge Wells, Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Tonbridge, Dartford, Gravesham and South Thanet, are suffering, along with others in more localised areas, as the policy appears to have fallen into temporary and unauthorised abeyance. 

So what is the effect of this policy on St James and the other local schools? ...........


The 44 first choice families who were not offered places,  and presumably a number of others who put the school second were shuffled off to schools such as Sherwood Park and St Matthew's High Brooms. These schools will have made plans for the additional children, inducting them and employing sufficient staff to cater for the increased numbers only to see their work undermined by the KCC decision.  Parents have been left in a state of limbo and the churning of children as they suddenly change schools  can hardly benefit anyone. Those who did not appeal will be feeling guilty, for trusting in KCC to get it right in the first place. And all this was unnecessary and entirely predictable, with the school governors making clear to the Independent Appeal Panel that they had no defence against admitting the extra children. 

The draft Commissioning Plan also identifies that there is a temporary enlargement of one Form of entry for the next two years  (i.e. from 2013) at Bishops Down, Claremont, St Matthews High Brooms and Pembury, to meet the significant pressure on Reception places. However, the Bishops Down Primary website states: "Following negotiations with the Local Authority the school has been told that they will revert to a 1 form intake (30 pupils in September 2013)", i.e. it is reducing its intake from the 60 of the past two years, Which is true?. In some recent years, the catchment distance fro Bishops Down has fallen as low as 350 yards, when intake was 30; it has risen to twice that with the intake being 60, but will presumably will shrink again in 2013, forcing local children away from their school in a direct contradiction of the aspirations for the commissioning plan.  

One has to ask why these perverse decisions are being made to the disadvantage of local children, in spite of the acknowledged pressure on places in Tunbridge Wells, as described in the Commissioning Plan.  TW MP Greg Clarke was concerned about the issues of Bishop's Down and St James' and met KCC to look at the issues recently. Perhaps he can make sense of what is happening. I can't.

Last modified on Sunday, 14 April 2013 07:55

1 comment

  • Comment Link Friday, 29 June 2012 18:09 posted by Bonnie Gomersall

    The traffic situation at pick-up and drop off time at Bishops Down (bearing in mind that Bishops Down and Rose Hill are situated next door to each other in a tight residential cul-de-sac ) may go a long way to explain the reluctance to carry on the 2 form entry longer than 3 year. PETER: This may well be true and if so the expansion should not have been allowed in the first place. The wording on the school website suggests that Bishops Down is happy to continue with the expansion. However, taken in conjunction with the explanation as to why St James' intake was reduced, and the draft Commissioning Plan itself, it does not suggest this is the explanation.

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