David Adams, Assistant Director Education (South Kent), Kent County Council, came to Council on 10 January to speak to Councillors and residents about the system for allocating new school places in Kennington and how this interacts with payments by housing developers under section 106 of the local Government Act 1972. Some 2,000 or more houses are due to be developed in the Kennington area over the next decade. 
David explained that Kent aims to maintain a surplus of places in primary schools to cope with unforeseen increased demand and give some flexibility. If the surplus falls too low, it has to act to increase supply. If the demand is short-term solutions such as temporary classrooms are used but for long-term shifts in demand a school may increase its annual intake of children or a new school will be planned. Forecasts take account of recent and foreseen births in an area. (No doubt there is an algorithm in there somewhere as well!) 
For new housing developments, assumptions are made that 100 hundred houses will produce a requirement for 28 school places (across all primary age groups, not each year group). When Kent can show that this demand will reduce the surplus below a safe level, the developer is asked to contribute a given amount for each unit built. Ashford Borough Council, as the local planning authority make this decision. 
The Ashford North Primary Planning Group covers schools in much of the town centre, Repton and across all of Kennington. In the year 2022-23, this group showed that primary provision in both the reception year and across ages generally was extremely tight but this is easing. In Kennington, the Conningbrook Park school on the new Willesborough Road estate is planned to accommodate a two-form entry primary school and to be built in the period 2028-31, based on the assumption that the developer will be able to provide access onto the site in 2027.  
Councillors expressed concerns that pupils from the development planned on the eastern side of Trinity Road will have to cross a busy road and may not find places in Goat Lees which has no space on site to expand. Councillors suggested that Kent’s policy of expanding walking and cycling routes did not marry up to an education policy that led to children travelling significant distances to school. 
One of the Borough Councillors present raised a specific case of a family that had moved into the area and, while a local place was offered for their child in the reception class, the older child had been assigned to Chilmington Primary School, leaving the parents with an impossible logistical task of getting both children to school safely and on time. Mr Adams explained that the Education Authority’s placement system followed certain rules which worked well for the most part. However, when it threw up cases which on the face of it were impractical, families or their representatives needed to speak to him and a detailed investigation might lead to a better solution. 
The Council greatly appreciated that Mr Adams had taken the time to visit Kennington and engage with residents in this way. 
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