Kent education

Kent education expert says parents moving to Ebbsfleet Garden City face ‘major crisis’ due to school space problem

An education expert says parents moving into a new housing estate face a “major crisis” due to a lack of school places.

Peter Read has revealed there are just 38 vacant reception places in the Ebbsfleet area, where 15,000 families are expected to live.

Peter Read talks about the problem of school placement in Ebbsfleet

He said: “There is a major school places crisis in Ebbsfleet. There are no places for families moving to the area and there won’t be any for a few years.

“Because of this, parents will be directed to schools outside of Ebbsfleet itself, and unfortunately if you look at the six nearest schools, only one of them has vacancies and that’s the problem because this school is very unpopular.”

Mr Read’s explanation comes as relatives already living in the neighborhood said they had to travel nearly 20 miles a day to take their child to school.

He continued: “Currently Knockhall Academy, Greenhithe, is the only academy in the area that has vacancies in the intake year.

Education expert, Peter Read. Photo: Peter Read

“These are all vacancies for the six schools in Ebbsfleet, Swanscombe and Greenhithe.

“Parents will be referred to this one school, which is highly unpopular due to its Ofsted ‘needs improvement’ report, even though it is on the edge of Ebbsfleet.

“Kent County Council’s (KCC) own documentation indicates there is no immediate problem as there are these 38 vacant reception places in Knockhall they say there is no crisis . There are, make no mistake.”

Mr Read, a former headmaster who became a highly respected consultant offering advice on educational matters, says his research shows Dartford schools are often seen as an alternative for parents in Ebbsfleet, however, at the October school census, there were only four reception places in the eastern half of the city.

He said: “These places would all be gone by now because Dartford also gets people from London.

Knockhall Academy in Greenhithe.  Photo: John Westrop
Knockhall Academy in Greenhithe. Photo: John Westrop

“However, KCC planning documents indicated that there would be no major problem over the next five years, as there are currently over 200 vacancies, across all age groups, in this unpopular school in Greenhithe.

“So it says we don’t have a problem in the area, but the parents are rightly saying, if it’s so unpopular, why should we go?”

The shortage of places comes as KCC education chiefs believe there will be demand for 6,600 new secondary school places by 2026, the equivalent of more than seven secondary schools.

Mr Read said: “Dartford is the biggest problem for primary education in the county.

“There are other hotspots but Dartford are at the center of the problem at the moment and what worries me is that there seem to be very few ideas to develop to meet the demand.

“If you buy a house in Ebbsfleet, unless you have special circumstances, it’s likely that for many of you, you won’t find a local school.”

“About 15,000 houses are being built in Ebbsfleet, the sky above, at the moment they have two schools – that’s not enough for 15,000 families.

“They hope to have two more schools somewhere in 2025, but it’s not good.

“If you buy a house in Ebbsfleet, unless you have special circumstances, it’s likely that for many of you you won’t find a local school.

“You may have to go to Gravesham, to Longfield, you may have to travel five, 10 miles to find a school – that’s the reality at the moment, I’m afraid.

“A lot of people don’t know about the situation unless they move to the area.

Castle Hill, an estate in Ebbsfleet Garden City
Castle Hill, an estate in Ebbsfleet Garden City

“I’m sure parents are promised there are places in new schools, but there are situations in schools, like Ebbsfleet Green, where children are taken by bus to Strood because the buildings don’t are not ready.”

Mr Read feels that Ebbsfleet Development Corporation did not act quickly enough to address parents’ concerns and dispositions.

However, KCC has overall responsibility for school places in Kent.

He said: “Parents face a difficult choice.

“Do they want to send their child to school in Knockhall, which itself is a few miles from the current main center of Ebbsfleet, or do they want to take their child further afield?

“It is common practice to open a new school, when local demand requires it, in order to avoid any negative impact on neighboring schools.

“But Dartford are strong. Northfleet, which is the next area, have vacancies but they may not want to go that far.

“But that’s the choice they might have to make. I’m sorry. But that’s it if you’re looking for a place in a public school.”

KCC explained that the pace of new housing occupations has slowed during the pandemic and therefore the delivery of new schools has been adjusted accordingly.

A spokesperson said: ‘Kent County Council has worked closely with the Ebbsfleet Development Corporation, Dartford Borough Council, local education providers and property developers to ensure there is enough places in primary, secondary and special schools for children who need them. in Swanscombe and the Greenhithe area.

“KCC’s commissioning intentions for the education offering are set out in Kent’s commissioning plan, which is updated annually.

“The latest version of Kent’s commissioning plan will soon be released, following its presentation to Cabinet earlier this month.

“Much of the Ebbsfleet area has been made subject to Section 106 (of the Planning Act 1990, as amended) which require the delivery date of a new school to be linked to the number of occupations of new dwellings.

“Cherry Orchard Primary Academy and Ebbsfleet Green Primary School both opened on schedule; in September 2017 and September 2020, respectively.

“The next new primary school (Alkerden) will open in September 2024, in line with housing occupancy triggers.

“In the meantime, there is capacity at nearby Knockhall Primary School, and Ebbsfleet Green Primary School currently offers 30 care places, but will eventually offer 60 care places when demand requires it.

Cherry Orchard Primary School in Castle Hill
Cherry Orchard Primary School in Castle Hill

“It is common practice to open a new school, when local demand requires it, in order to avoid any negative impact on neighboring schools.

“The latest version of the commissioning plan shows manageable forecasts in existing school areas, with small deficits for 2023 and 2024 managed by the two schools mentioned above.

“In the longer term, KCC plans to commission another new 2FE primary school in Ashmere, in the western part of Ebbsfleet.”

Ebbsfleet Development Corporation has been contacted for comment.