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Displaying items by tag: Primary Reception Pressures

(Article in progress, updated 1 Oct 2012)

Kent County Council has quietly released a Commissioning Plan setting out its proposals for new school places across the county for both primary and secondary schools, on a district by district basis, looking at the consequences for individual schools. The main headline is that over 10,000 new places need to be produced by 2016. You will find the full plan here. The Commissioning Plan identifies proposals for creating 5194 places by 2014, and at present there are no clear plans for the remaining 5000 places - although there is time now to consider options.

A preliminary press release focused on 35 additional classrooms being added in the current school year, catering for the additional  reception classes which were set up to cater for mainly unexpected demand.

I believe this is an essential document; it is just regrettable that when it was proposed in 2009, on the back of warnings about school place shortages, no action was taken, resulting in some of the temporary fixes we have seen in the past two years, described elsewhere in this website. Details follow below.......

The document looks at each District, and names the schools due for expansion and where new primary schools are to be commissioned  in the next four years, I summarise these as follows, although you need to check the plan for the detail......

Published in News Archive

LATEST (13/7): Kent County Council had its debate on the e-petition submitted by Bearsted parents on Thursday. The debate can be found in full at: http://www.kent.public-i.tv/core/portal/webcast_interactive/82135, 3 hours and five minutes into the meeting. There was unanimous praise for the leaders of the campaign  (unique in my experience), although there was much discussion on county wide issues. KCC takes some pride in its place forecasting, although I would challenge that confidence, as we continue to see too many  predictable crises in provision. Three important outcomes. The decision by the governors of St John's to expand to two forms of entry in September 2013, and to provide an additional Year One class for those children currently disappointed, will need to go out for consultation, and Department for Education approval, although there is a presumption in the School Admissions Code of Practice that such expansion will be approved. There will not be additional provision at St John's during the course of the academic year 2012-2013, so those children who have lost out this time round, will have to wait until September 2013, to amply to transfer into Year One. The problem for 2012 entry has been exacerbated by the large number of siblings, and this ought to be a factor tracked in the future. 

Ther have been similar problems in the Kings Hill area of West Malling, and it appears this campagin has inspired parents there to set off on a similar trail. You will find a facebook page at: http://workingpartykingshill.blogspot.co.uk/

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Kent County Council has issued the following press release: "Primary school expansion in Grove Green brings welcome news to local parents......

Published in News Archive
Friday, 15 June 2012 00:00

Primary School Places in Chatham

Medway Council is proposing a new three form entry primary school on the site of the old Chatham South secondary school, after the birth rate in Chatham shows a 21% increase since 2005, coupled with increasing migration into the area probably as a result of cheaper housing costs. This follows the proposal to close two primary schools in Chatham just two yeas ago because of falling numbers! One of those schools, Ridge Meadow, did in fact close but the other, St John's Infant School, was saved after a decision by the Schools Adjudicator overruled Medway Council's proposal. A further proposed closure of St Peter's Infant School in Rochester was dropped. For 2012 entry, St John's is full, St Peter's has just two empty spaces, and there are just 17 places vacant in the whole of Chatham, all at Luton Infants School. 

This all shows that school place forecasting is a difficult science, and Medway Council acknowledges it can do better...

Published in News Archive

Pressure continues to build over the shortage of reception class places in Bearsted, centred on Madginford Park Infants School, Thurnham CofE Infants School and St John's Primary School. At the recent meeting of Bearsted Parish Council,  Paul Carter, Leader of Kent County Council, listened to the concerns of many local parents whose children have no local school to go to, and has promised to do what he can to resolve the problem. One new issue is that at present, 43 of the 80 plus children without a school of their choice have been allocated places at  St Paul's Infant School over two miles away. KCC is responsible for providing transport for those unable to make other arrangements, likely to be a minibus, driver as the only adult present, no seat belts, cost estimated at .......

Published in News Archive

On the surface, Kent primary school infant class placements, which took place at the end of March look well with a healthy 95% of children in Kent being offered one of their three choices, similar to last year. However, looking beneath the surface, a much more worrying picture emerges because of increased numbers in some areas as the number of children being allocated a school they hadn’t chosen has risen from 564 to 818 in two years, a frightening rise of 45%.

Analysis of the figures shows a sharp contrast between most of West Kent and most of East Kent and between urban and rural areas. Maidstone town is the most difficult area, with over 100 children allocated to schools they did not apply for and NO places free in any school in the town. Other problem areas include Tunbridge Wells with just 16 places left free out of the 920 available, and 75 children having none of their choices. 15 of those 16 free places are in Pembury School (just outside the town), and only exist as its capacity was expanded by 30 at short notice last year, to cater for the difficulties. Sevenoaks has 94 children allocated, 7 places left free; urban Dartford, 71 children allocated and 7 places left free;  the Ramsgate area of Thanet, 65 children allocated, 8 places free, all in Bromstone Primary school in Broadstairs; Folkestone, 43 children allocated, 6 left free; and the area around Faversham with 37 children allocated.

Kent County Council, in a confidential analysis of issues produced in 2009, identified major problems for 2011 entry in Dartford, Gravesham, Thanet and Tunbridge Wells, some of these other issues being masked by rural parts of the districts having spare capacity. Sadly, little was done to alleviate the problems at a time when finances were easier. What is clear is that although Kent’s Primary Strategy of 2006 has a policy that there should be between 5-7% surplus capacity in an area, it has not planned to meet this policy. Where additional places have been added, too often these are last minute decisions and often in inappropriate schools. What we are seeing is an unwritten change of policy from trying to meet parental preferences, to a minimalist offering to children of a school somewhere, no matter how suitable.   

Riverhead Infant School in Sevenoaks has soared to the top of the oversubscription table, turning away 54 first choices with the neighbouring Sevenoaks Primary School turning away 44 children, in fourth place. In between come Madginford Park in Maidstone, and Priory Infants, Ramsgate. In fifth place comes St James CofE VA Infant School, in Tunbridge Wells, then: Slade Primary, Tonbridge; Sandgate Primary, Folkestone; West Hill Primary, Dartford; St John's Catholic Primaryl, Gravesend; Joyden's Wood Infants, Dartford; St Peter's Methodist, Canterbury; Holy Trinity & St John's CofE Primary, Margate; St John's CofE Primary, Tunbridge Wells; St Stephen's Infant, Canterbury; Ethelbert Road Primary, Faversham; and St Mildred's Infants, Broadstairs. All these schools turned away 30 or more first choices.

At the other end of the table, 14 schools, nearly all in East Kent, have over half their places left empty. Three of these have all admitted fewer than 50% of their capacity for each of the last three years. How on earth can they remain viable? However, the political controversy over closing such schools is always intense, even if this would release resources to provide extra provision in places of greatest need. Further information on all the key pressure points at www.kentadvice.co.uk.

Published in Newspaper Articles

I now have detailed information on Kent and Medway primary school admission offers for September 2012. On the surface, all looks well with a healthy 95% of children in Kent being offered one of their three choices, similar to last year. However, with rising rolls the number of children being allocated a school they hadn’t chosen has risen from 564 to 818 in two years, a worrying rise of 45%.

You will find more general information in a separate article below.  I have started to provide more detailed information on difficult areas, via the links below. 

Analysis of the figures shows a sharp contrast between most of West Kent and most of East Kent and between urban and rural areas. Maidstone town is the most difficult area, with over 100 children allocated to schools they did not apply for (you will find an earlier article on part of the problem here) and NO places free in any school in the town. Other problem areas include:........

Published in News Archive

In 2009, a senior KCC officer produced a confidential paper for the then Director of Education, forecasting there would be an 8% shortfall in primary reception class places in Tunbridge Wells in 2011. This wasn't actually difficult to foresee, as these children had been born two years previously, and so the issue should have been raised earlier. No action was taken at a time when finance may well have been available to tackle the impending crisis.  

In 2010, there were considerable problems in finding primary school placements in Tunbridge Wells.  I wrote a newspaper article publicly outlining the issues, expanding it later in the year. No action was taken, but KCC explained that there wasn't actually a problem. I am not saying that KCC should have responded to my articles, but they had prior access to the same data I had subsequently unearthed. 

In 2011, the expected forecast shortfall of 8% shortage of places in Tunbridge Wells  proved exactly correct........

Published in News Archive

Kent County Council has appointed another new senior Interim Officer,  Lorraine O'Reilly, who is to be Director of School Standards and Planning, a poisoned chalice indeed........

Published in News Archive

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....

Published in News Archive
Sunday, 07 November 2010 20:26

Pressure on Kent Primary Reception Class Places


I wrote an article on this subject for the Gravesend Reporter in September, and another one in Kent On Sunday, with Radio Kent picking up the information and running it as a main story.
In summary, Kent has seen a dramatic fall in the number of vacant primary school places in the past six years from 3299 in the Reception Year in 2005-6, to an estimated 108 across the whole county next September.

KCC recommends a vacancy rate of from 5-7%, but these figures represent a surplus of just 0.7%. A part of the drop in vacant spaces was caused by the removal of 1312 places in areas such as Dover where there are empty classrooms, but there are worrying problems ahead for next September. Four districts are forecast to have  a shortage of places overall: Gravesham 11% (!); Tunbridge Wells and Dartford 8%, and Thanet 0.1 %. Two other areas that cause concern are Tonbridge which has fallen from a surplus of 19% to a minute one of 2.5%,  and Sevenoaks falling from 12% surplus to 5%. The three West Kent numbers are of particular significance as they indicate a considerable shortage of secondary school places in the area in a few years time, which will put additional pressure on all the six already oversubscribed grammar schools, for local children. For September just past, KCC put an additional 55 temporary places into TW primary schools, but this left just 3 spaces vacant in a single school at allocation day in March. Some children may subsequently have taken up places in Independent schools, but others will have moved in, so the crisis is real and getting worse.
Published in News Archive
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