Increase in pupils missing out on first choice secondary school is expected

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ALMOST 90,000 children nationally will miss out on their first choice of secondary school next week, according to the Good Schools Guide.

It predicts that this figure is set to be up on last year when 85,000 children – close to one in six– failed to get a place at their preferred school.

More than 550,000 pupils in England and Wales will find out where they have been allocated on Tuesday.

The guide said that the increase in population that has resulted in a shortage of primary school places in recent years is now, inevitably, having a significant impact on demand for places in secondary schools.

The Good Schools Guide’s state schools expert, Elizabeth Coatman said: “While the local authorities are legally obliged to provide every child with a school place, they no longer have ultimate control over the creation of schools.

“The Government has halted the establishing of new council-run schools, leaving local authorities dependent on outside bodies to establish new academies or free schools in their area.”

In 2015 there were big disparities in the number of pupils getting into their first choice secondary in different parts of Yorkshire. Children in most areas of West Yorkshire were less likely to get into their first choice school than in other parts of the county. In Bradford one-in-four children (25 per cent) have not been allocated their first choice, while in Calderdale, Kirklees and Leeds the figure was 17 per cent.

New research by the admissions website FindASchool suggests almost half of secondary schools in England have been oversubscribed recently, and the numbers are increasing.

Figures obtained through Freedom of Information requests indicate that 47 per cent of secondaries were oversubscribed in 2015 - equivalent to more than 1,500 schools - and this is up from 43 per cent in 2014. The analysis shows that in some cases, so-called “catchment areas” - the area around a school from which it draws its pupils, may be shrinking.

A total of 28 schools had a catchment area of less than one kilometre in 2015, the website found. This is for pupils not qualifying for a place under any other admissions criteria. Admissions rules are set by councils and schools and they may prioritise other criteria besides using catchment area such as securing places for children in care or those with siblings already at the school.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “The Government doubled the funding for school places to £5 billion in the last parliament, which has helped create half a million new school places.

A further £7 billion has already been committed to create even more places over the next six years.”