Thousands of students may have missed out on their top choice of secondary school, analysis suggests, as councils face a surge in demand for places.
Nationwide, more than half a million 11-year-olds were today finding out which school they will be attending from September, on what is known National Offer Day. But as early surveys suggest a youngster’s chances of securing their preferred place vary significantly depending on postcode, education leaders have called for change.
There has been an additional 23,000 applications for school places this year, the Good Schools Guide estimates, following a spike in the birth rate in the early 2000s. Local education authorities should hold the power to plan for admissions to adapt to this, the National Education Union has warned.
“Transferring to secondary school can be an anxious time for pupils and parents,” said Kevin Courtney, joint general secretary. “The last thing any family needs is a worry about whether there will be enough places in a good local school to go round. Responsibility for planning school places and overseeing admissions should be returned to the democratic oversight of local authorities so they can plan and provide enough school places where they are needed.”
Surveys to authorities nationwide show that in some areas, up to a quarter of students are missing out on their preferred school place, while in others almost all are successful.
In Yorkshire, there is significant variation, with just 72 per cent of students in Bradford seeing success in top choice bids, compared to 94 per cent East Riding. Bradford Council said that it has seen a four per cent increase in places’ demand, with the majority of those unable to get their first preference being offered their second. An additional factor, it said, could be differing admissions processes for a number of schools where distance is not a mitigating factor.
“The council and schools do all they can so that parents and carers have the best chance of getting into a school of their preference,” said Coun Imran Khan, portfolio holder for education. “We are working to make sure that our secondary schools have the right capacity so they can meet demand for places.”
In North Yorkshire, 88 per cent of students secured their first choice, 82 per cent in Leeds, and 91.5 per cent in York.
Rotherham and York councils confirmed they had seen a surge in applications, the latter of around four per cent, with acceptance rates dropping for preferred places. And in East Riding, despite having one of the highest success rates in the country, the council has confirmed that nine secondaries have now filled all their spaces.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: “This Government is determined to create more choice for parents when it comes to their children’s education and we have created 825,000 school places since 2010, and are on track to see that number rise to a million by 2020.”