Worry over schools' big number of vacancies
Classrooms are half empty
at several Kent schools
by political editor Paul Francis
Five secondary schools in the county have more than half of
their available places for new pupils vacant, according to
county council figures.
A further five have 40% of their places available for Year 7
But at the same time, more than a third of schools have taken in
more pupils than they have available places for.
Of these 28, nine are academies and 13 are grammar schools.
Data from Kent County Council has revealed wide variations in
the intake of Year 7 pupils across the county's 99 secondary
It will prompt concerns that those with more empty desks could
struggle to survive in the long term.
At the same time, the figures suggest the growing number of
academies, which control their own admissions and are independent,
is making it more difficult for the education authority to plan
According to the figures, the five schools with the highest
number of unfilled places are: The Marlowe Academy in Ramsgate (34%
of places taken); High Weald Academy (38%), Walmer Science College,
Deal (40%); Hextable School (45%) and Pent Valley Technology
Those other schools with more than 40% of places unfilled as at
September last year are: The Community College, Whitstable; The
Chaucer Technology College, Canterbury; Dover Christ Church
Academy; Meopham School, Gravesend and New Line Learning,
Kent County Council has downplayed the significance of the
acknowledged planning to ensure there was not a high number of
places was more difficult.
Cllr Mike Whiting (Con), cabinet member for education and
pictured right, said: "It is a very different landscape in planning
terms. In the old days, we had complete control over planning
"Now we are in a situation where rightly the government wants to
see popular schools expand and not have their intake kept low. The
problem is that academies set their own admissions."
Cllr Martin Vye, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said the
government was making it impossible for the council to do its job
as schools got greater freedom.
"The county council has a duty to ensure standards improve but
if schools are not under our control, it is very much more
difficult. That is something the government has to sort out.
"We should have more clout to intervene. If a successful academy
school wants to expand there is nothing we can do about it."
What do you think? Join the debate below.
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