Kent primary school admissions 'show planning failure'

Sarah Fillery and her son Hayden Sarah Fillery was among a group of 14 local parents who did not get their top three choices

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More than 800 Kent pupils have been denied places at their three preferred primary schools, leading to claims the county council failed to plan ahead.

Kent County Council (KCC) figures showed 818 pupils missed out, with the highest numbers in Maidstone, Sevenoaks, Thanet and Tunbridge Wells.

Schools expert Peter Read said KCC had failed to plan ahead. He said urban areas of Kent had been worst hit.

KCC said it had and would continue to make more reception places available.

Alex King, of Tunbridge Wells, whose four-year-old daughter is due to start school this September, is rejecting her child's allocated place at Sherwood Park Community Primary School this Thursday - the deadline for families to go back on the waiting list.

She is still hoping her child will be allocated a place at St. John's (0.8 miles from her home), Claremont (0.8 miles away) or Bishops Down (0.9 miles away), the three schools she chose.

Mrs King said: "KCC have fulfilled their legal requirement but they haven't fulfilled their moral requirement. What they are not looking at is the way that the town works, and where children are being bussed to and commuted to."

She said KCC should have built another primary school.

Mother 'offered taxi'


KCC released figures for the numbers of pupils per borough who did not get a place at their three preferred schools, and also the number of school places still available in each area

  • In Ashford, 44 pupils missed out on their preferred schools (118 school places are currently available)
  • Canterbury 44 (156)
  • Dartford 76 (60)
  • Dover 29 (212)
  • Gravesham 46 (117)
  • Maidstone 115 (68)
  • Sevenoaks 106 (74)
  • Shepway 50 (89)
  • Swale 63 (83)
  • Thanet 101 (100)
  • Tonbridge & Malling 40 (114)
  • Tunbridge Wells 87 (24)
  • N/A Applicants with no assigned district 17 (0)
  • TOTAL 818 (1,215)

Mrs King said she rejected a place at Sherwood Park after reading the latest Ofsted report, which highlighted attendance issues, concerns about below-average academic attainment, the news that the current head teacher was leaving, and the 1.1-mile walk to the school.

Mr Read, an independent education advisor, also said Sherwood was one of the bottom nine schools in Kent in terms of repeated poor Key Stage 2 results over four years, and was being taken over by an as-yet-unnamed academy group.

He said: "I think parental choice has lost its meaning for many parents because of failure to provide sufficient places in good schools."

Mr Read said KCC was "losing control of key primaries" and added that the number of children who had been allocated a school they had not chosen had risen by 45% over two years, from 564 to 818.

He said the education authority should look at data that was available four years ago and "plan properly".

Councillor Mike Whiting, KCC's cabinet member for education, learning and skills, said school place forecasts were reviewed regularly, and the council expected that increased demand had now peaked in some districts.

Sarah Fillery, of Weavering, Maidstone, said she was among a group of 14 local parents who did not get their top three choices.

She said: "KCC knew that in 2007/08 there was an extremely high birth rate. We are all trying to squeeze into three local schools. They just haven't got enough places."

'Build more schools'

The mother-of four said she had two children of primary school age who could now not attend the same school, with the result that KCC had offered a taxi for her four-year-old - a suggestion she felt was unacceptable.

Councillor Mike Whiting Councillor Mike Whiting said KCC would be consulting on school place demand

She said parents in Maidstone also wanted another school to be built.

Mr Whiting said: "As with the rest of England, the birth rate in Kent has risen significantly in recent years. We have and will continue to make more school places available in reception classes.

"As much as we would love to offer every family their first preference, there is a balance to find between catering for population and popularity.

"While it would be the wish of parents to expand popular schools, we have to consider factors such as the capacity of the school site and the knock-on effect to neighbouring schools."

He said KCC would be consulting shortly on school place demand and would be working to find the right solutions for Kent in the short and longer term.

KCC said 16,294 applications were received across the county and nearly 95% had been offered a place at one of their choices, which the education authority described as "excellent outcomes". About 85% of people who applied got their first choice.

The council also said Sherwood Park had made significant improvements. Last year, inspectors found attendance had significantly increased, improvements in the Early Years Foundation Stage had been "dramatic", pupils were attentive and well-focused, and lessons were "well-organised with clear learning objectives and success criteria".

KCC said Sherwood Park's head teacher would be retiring in August after 25 years' service, and Sherwood would then become part of a small group of schools that had been successful in moving schools to outstanding.


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  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    2. TWAHW - You say "Why give parents the illusion of choice if they blatantly don't have one in most areas?" How does this equate with 95% of parents getting their 1st/2nd/3rd choice - with 85% getting their first choice? Unfortunately no system under any government has ever existed that gives 100% of parents their 1st choice.

  • rate this

    Comment number 6.

    We were in the same position with Sherwood 2 years ago. However after we went on the school tour, we went with the school keeping her name on several waiting lists. After 4 months at Sherwood we took her name off the waiting lists. The teachers are superb, the school resources are amazing. They're very caring and handle all the children with such care. Please reconsider it's a brilliant school.

  • rate this

    Comment number 5.

    I am in exactly the same position, my eldest son attends a school in Chatham, I am registered disabled and we were offered a bus pass from medway council for our 4 year old!!!! He was kept back a year and now attends a different school and we are still fighting this, each child is alternativelt late for school either morning or afternoon, I think it should be siblings take priority.

  • rate this

    Comment number 4.

    The council's failed education policy exposes the most stunning short term thinking. On the radio this morning the councillor interviewed talked of adding classes as short term measures, and entering consultations. But these schools are telling parents they can't take siblings. If they couldn't get this right in 2006 when they closed schools, what makes any of us believe they can get it right now?

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    I don't think this mess up in lack of planning for school places reflects very well in the Prime Ministers hopes for the Big Society.
    All children should be given a place in the school which is nearest to their homes or where their siblings attend.
    Stop pointing the blame and making excuses and sort this mess out quickly with interim measures if necessary.


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