100,000 pupils lose out on first choice of school

Northern girls face a double disadvantage on pay and jobs, the Children's Commissioner for England has warned.
Northern girls face a double disadvantage on pay and jobs, the Children's Commissioner for England has warned.
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More than 100,000 youngsters will miss out on their first choice of secondary school in England, education experts have predicted.

Many families will receive a satisfactory offer lower down their list of preferences, but for some their children will be offered a school which is underperforming or geographically inconvenient, according to The Good Schools Guide.

And it estimated that as many as 25,000 children will not get a place at any of the secondary schools which their parents listed in the application.

It comes on the day children across the country learn which secondary school they will attend from this autumn, on what is known as National Offer Day.

Bernadette John, director at The Good Schools Guide, said: “It is incredibly stressful for parents when their child is offered a place at a school a long journey from home, or with a damming Ofsted report, or which for very good reasons they have not chosen for their child.

“Despite a merry-go-round of Education Secretaries, none has managed to address the continuing problem of insufficient places. Too many schools which are not up to scratch and are rejected by parents, resulting in this anguish year-after-year.”

There have been mounting concerns about a squeeze on school places, caused in part by a recent rise in the birthrate, that is now moving its way through into secondary schools.

In Leeds, despite 112 more pupils being offered their first choice school in September than the previous year, there has been a slight dip in the overall percentage from 85 per cent to 82 per cent.

Coun Lisa Mulherin, executive member for children and families, said: “While I am pleased that we have been able to increase the number of young people attending their first preference school, this is getting more and more challenging to achieve as pupil numbers rise.

“The increase in primary school pupil numbers we have seen in the last 10 years is now starting to make itself felt in the secondary phase which is why we are bringing forward options for increasing the amount of secondary provision in some areas of the city.”

A total of 89 per cent of Sheffield children have been given their first preference, up from 87 per cent, while in North Yorkshire more than 90 per cent have been allocated their first choice – an increase of one per cent.

Nationally 83.5 per cent of pupils have been offered their first choice of secondary school, according to the Department for Education (DfE), following the creation of 735,000 new school places since 2010.

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “We are raising standards across the country and we’re investing £5.8bn to create even more good school places.”

However, The Good Schools Guide says the Government has failed to increase the number of school places at a rate which matches the growth in applicants, with 20,000 more applicants this year than in 2017, it says.