One in four children miss first choice primary in some areas

CREDIT: This story was first seen in The Telegraph

One in four children missed out on their first choice primary school in some parts of the country, it emerged  on Tuesday, The Telegraph reports.

Thousands of families across the country were left disappointed as they found out which school their children have got a place at this September, on what has been dubbed “national offer day”.

It comes as town hall chiefs warn that pressure on places will continue to intensify amid higher birth rates and rising immigration.

In London, almost 3,000 children were rejected by all three of their preferred schools, leaving local authorities scrambling to find them places elsewhere.

Figures released on Tuesday by the Pan London Admissions Board suggested that competition for places was fiercest in boroughs across the capital.

In Hammersmith and Fulham, almost a quarter (23%)  missed out on their top choice school and in Wandsworth a fifth (21%) of families were left disappointed.

Preliminary data obtained by The Daily Telegraph reveals that there is wide variation across the country. In Bristol 14% of children failed to secure a place at their preferred school.

In Birmingham and Newcastle, 13% of children were rejected by their first choice school, while 12% missed out on their first choice in Liverpool and 11% in Manchester and Kent. Ten per cent of parents in Nottinghamshire, Brighton and Leicester were told their children had not got a place at their top school.

In Coventry eight per cent were turned down by their first choice school, while seven per cent were in Cambridgeshire.

Children who are rejected from their schools of choice can end up having to travel long distances or take up a place at an under-performing school.

Beth Noakes, editor of the Good Schools Guide said when it comes to creating more places at primary schools, local councils’ “hands are tied”.

“In some places there is hugely increased pressure on places as councils cannot open new schools, nor can they force free schools or academies to expand,” she said.

“They have to wait for a free school to open – and often they are not set up in the areas that need them most.”

She said it is particularly hard for parents to appeal against decisions for primary school places, due to the strict limit of 30 children per class.

“London is always frantic as there is never enough space – partly because there are so many international families and it is also hard for schools to expand,” Ms Noakes added.

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Research published earlier this week found that just one in six of those from the poorest families win places at the best primary schools, with the gulf between rich and poor children growing even wider by the time they reach secondary school.

Russell Hobby, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: “Schools in areas of high demand are being forced to expand, having to find new places, classrooms and funding, potentially over-stretching capacity and causing teaching quality to drop.

“There is a desperate need for long-term planning that spans all sectors. With the massive increase in pupil numbers and over-stretched budgets, we cannot afford inefficiency and conflict.”

An official forecast published by the Department for Education (DfE) last summer predicted that demand for primary school places increase by 3.8 per cent by 2025, to 4,651,000.

The forecast said that increased births from 2002 onwards has meant that the bulge is now being felt at secondary schools too, with more children entering schools at age 11 than are leaving them at age 16.

Sara Williams, Chair of the Pan London Admissions Board, said: “The demand for primary school places in London remains high, having increased by five per cent since 2011.

“We will be keeping an eye on birth rates and patterns of population growth, but we expect demand for primary school places to continue at least at current levels and demand for secondary school places to grow considerably in the years ahead.”

According to the Department for Education (DfE), last year over 640,000 children applied to primary schools, of which 12 per cent missed out on their first choice school, while four per cent did not receive an offer at any of their top three preferences.

A DfE spokesman said: “We are making more good school places available so thousands more families have the choice of a good local school.”

“But we know there is more to do to ensure every parent has access to a good schools place for their child.

“We have already set out plans to make more good school places available – including scrapping the ban on new grammar school places, and harnessing the resources and expertise of universities, independent and faith schools.”

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