Do we really need another school? The numbers game
Aside from the need for a state school offering a different approach that is personalised to its learners to maximise potential, there is a real statistical need for any kind of new school in this area.
Da Vinci School is planned to be located between Sevenoaks and Tonbridge to address a clearly identified need for places.
At Primary level, this area incorporates pupils from the Sevenoaks Rural South East, Hildenborough and North Tonbridge planning groups. Kent County Council have a published target to maintain at least 4% extra places in our Primary schools to allow for parental choice. Taking this into account, there will be 69 Primary places needed in 2019 and this rises to 99 places by 2025. Da Vinci School will be able to offer 60 Primary places per year. Ignoring the preferred surplus, this actually means that 79 children in these planning areas will be without a Primary school in 2025 if no new schools are built or if existing schools are simply unable to squeeze in any more children.
For our future Secondary students, the statistics are even more concerning. Looking at the Sevenoaks, Tonbridge and Tunbridge Wells planning groups, there are expected to be 468 Secondary places needed in 2019 (allowing for a 9% surplus agreed by Kent County Council to allow for choice). This rises to an alarming need for 1014 Secondary places by 2025. Even discounting the surplus, this still means that 604 students in this area will be without a Secondary school in 2025 if no new schools are built or if they cannot be fitted in to existing schools.
The Secondary situation is further compounded by inward migration from surrounding areas. In 2015, 1300 Y7-13 students travelled from outside Kent to study in Tonbridge and 750 to study in Tunbridge Wells. 836 Y7-13 students migrated out of Kent but this may well be unsustainable in the future as Bromley, Bexley, Wealden and Mid Sussex are expecting large Secondary place deficits of their own.
Although we hear in the local press that most of the children in this area are given their first or second choice of school and that the Secondary schools are taking ‘bulge classes’ to deal with boom years, the statistics show that there are some serious school place issues approaching. Catchment areas will shrink as local student population numbers increase and school choices will be greatly reduced. The government really needs to be lining up extra provision now. Squeezing more and more children onto sites not big enough to cope, into small village Primary schools, into buildings that are already full, is simply not sustainable, nor desirable in many cases.
The national press has reported again recently that a huge shortage of Secondary school places is looming, with deficits in the thousands as a population bulge works its way through. Now that government has encouraged many schools to become academies, local councils are finding that they no longer have the power to require these schools to expand so cannot deal with the issue.
For all of the reasons above we ask that everyone in the local area please support our application for Da Vinci School. You can access our public petition (open to all to complete) or our parental support survey (for those in Y4 or Y5 or born September 2014-August 2016) through our website www.davincischool.org.uk .
Sources of data: Commissioning Plan for Education Provision in Kent 2017-2023 (trend data used from 2023), Annual Schools Census (ASC) 2013 and National Statistics: Schools, pupils and their characteristics: January 2015, Department for Education