NEW FIGURES show a parents’ chance of getting their child into their first choice of secondary school in Yorkshire still varies greatly depending on where they live.
The long wait to discover where 11-year-olds have been allocated a school place from this September came to an end today as councils announced their decisions.
Applicants have faced a postcode lottery in the region in recent years with people in much of West Yorkshire less likely to secure a place at their first choice secondary than elsewhere in the region.
The first figures published today show the vast majority of parents and pupils have got into their first choice secondary school in areas across Yorkshire.
But there has still been disappointment for hundreds of families who have been allocated schools they did not choose.
And there are big variations in the numbers securing places at parents’ first choice of school in different parents of the region
In Bradford more than one-in-four pupils were not allocated a place at their first choice compared to less than one-in-20 who missed out in Doncaster.
Bradford, Hull and Leeds had the lowest level of pupils being placed at their first preference of secondary school.
In Bradford, 72 per cent of pupils were placed in their first choice school while six per cent, 487 pupils, did not get any of their preferences.
In Hull one-in-five pupils missed out on their first choice and in Leeds it was almost one-in five.
There were six areas of Yorkshire where more than nine out of ten were placed in their first choice.
In Doncaster, the East Riding and Rotherham 96 per cent of pupils were placed in their top preference. In Barnsley it was 95 per cent while in Wakefield it was 92 per cent and in York it was 91 per cent.
Bradford Council’s executive member for education, Coun Susan Hinchcliffe, said: “We’ve never hidden the challenges that come with providing secondary school places in Bradford, one of the youngest cities in the country. The number of children needing a secondary place has gone up again this year to nearly 7,500.
“What increases the scale of the challenge is that local authorities no longer have the powers to build new secondary schools.
“The important thing is therefore for us to work with potential sponsors and Government who have the funding to get them to build new schools in the right areas.
“We’re already in regular conversation with the Department for Education and Regional Schools Commissioner to make sure we have new schools built by 2018.”
Her comments echo concerns raised by the Local Government Association (LGA) that councils needed powers to be able to open schools.
Under current rules there is a presumption that any new state school will be an academy or free school, which are run outside of council control. Local councils which want to open a school must first run a competition to find an academy sponsor.
The LGA said that unless councils are given powers to open their own schools or compel academies to expand then it will be impossible for authorities to meet their statutory duty of ensuring places are available for every child.
However the Department for Education has accused the LGA of scaremongering.
The Government said it pumped £5bn into creating half a million new places over the last parliament and has committed a further £7bn over the next six years.
In Leeds more than 6,850 children will be attending their first preference school in September and overall, 95 per cent will attend one of their top five preferences. This year Leeds City Council has allocated 8341 year seven places, which is around 380 more than last year.
The number of children not getting any of their five preferences at secondary school was 4.6 per cent
Councillor Lucinda Yeadon, executive member for children and families said: “For parents and carers, choosing a secondary school for their children is an incredibly important decision and I am pleased that we have been able to offer the majority of young people their first preference school.
“Our admissions team will now work closely with schools and families to find alternative places for those children who did not get any of their preferences or who refuse their allocated place.”
In North Yorkshire 87 per cent of parents secured their first preference for their child for the 2016/17 academic year. This was below last year’s figure of 89 per cent.
In Hull 80.9 per cent received a place at their first preference school, up from 77.5 per cent last year. And 94.9 per cent were allocated to one of their preference schools compared to 94.2 per cent last year.
In Sheffield, more than 96 per cent of pupils starting secondary school in September have been given a place in one of their preferred schools, an increase of almost two per cent on last year’s results. The council said 87 per cent had been given a place at their first choice of school.
The council said it has been able to achieve a higher number of preference places overall by providing 150 extra places for year seven pupils this year spread throughout the city.
In Wakefield 92.78 per cent of pupils were allocated their first choice. Of the 3,518 pupils applying, 3,264 have been given a place at their first choice of school.
In Doncaster the figure was slightly higher. The council said that 99 per cent of children who applied on time have been offered a place at one of their preferred choices with 96 per cent getting into their first choice.
York City Council said 91 per cent of pupils applying had got into their first choice school while 97 per cent got one of their first three preferences.
Coun Jenny Brooks, the executive member for education, said: “This is the highest number of young people that York has been asked to accommodate at its secondary schools in recent years and we are pleased that schools have worked with us to ensure we have the capacity.”
In North East Lincolnshire, a total of 1,768 applications were received and 91.85 per cent were offered their first preference school, 5.94 per cent their 2nd preference and 0.68 per cent were allocated their 3rd preference.
The 1.53 per cent who didn’t get any of their preferences have been allocated the next nearest school and any late applications or changes to original preferences will be considered at a second allocation on March 31.
In the East Riding, of 3,308 applications received 3,188 (96.4 per cent) have been allocated places at their first choice school and 3,280 (99.2 per cent) have places at one of their three choices of school.
In addition, 344 children living in other local authority areas have been allocated places at schools in the East Riding, with the largest number (264) coming from Hull.
At the same time, 249 East Riding resident children have been allocated places at schools in other local authority areas, including 118 who have been given places at schools in Hull.