Fewer pupils get into main choice school

Almost 1,300 East Anglian children were denied their first choice secondary school this year, new figures showed last night.In Norfolk, the parents of 699 youngsters are digesting the bad news after being told they have missed out on the school they sought-after - up from 631 last year.

Almost 1,300 East Anglian children were denied their first choice secondary school this year, new figures showed last night.

In Norfolk, the parents of 699 youngsters are digesting the bad news after being told they have missed out on the school they sought-after - up from 631 last year.

In Suffolk, the figure is 269, while 324 missed out in Cambridgeshire.

However, the three counties remain well ahead of the national average, with more than 92pc of parents in each county getting their first choice - compared to 83pc nationally.


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In Norfolk, 92.7pc of 9,573 applications were granted their number one choice of high school, which is down from 93.5pc in 2008 but is the 30th best of the 150 English local authorities. And 97.9pc got one of their three choices, down from 98.14pc last year.

In Suffolk, 93pc out of 3,837 got their first choice (94.1pc last year), while 97.1pc got one of their three selections.

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In Cambridgeshire, 94.3pc out of 5,688 were given their first choice school (91.3pc in 2008), while 98.2pc got one of their three preferences.

Nationally, 16.8pc (92,000) of almost 550,000 children did not get their first choice for the 2009/10 school year. The 83.2pc success rate is a 1.1pc improvement on last year.

Schools secretary Ed Balls has announced an inquiry into whether the use of lotteries to award school places is having a harmful effect on children. The new chief schools adjudicator Ian Craig will lead the review.

The government brought in a new statutory admissions code last year aimed at making the process fairer, and the code has just been tightened again.

Ministers said it would help stamp out unfair practices such as schools interviewing parents and pupils or asking for personal information about their family background in order to select pupils.

But critics suggest it has meant that fewer parents are getting their first choice of school, while parents themselves have reported they still find the system confusing.

The figures show that 94.4pc of children were allocated a place at one of their top three preferences, including 8.4pc were given a place at their second.

But the figures also reveal wide discrepancies across the country.

In Buckinghamshire, which has a high number of grammar schools, just 53.3pc were allocated a place at their first choice. In Kent, which also has a number of grammar schools, the figure was higher, with 78.4pc receiving their first choice of school.

In London, just over half of pupils gained a place at their preferred school in Lambeth (55.5pc) Lewisham (56.8pc), Southwark (54.8pc) Wandsworth (53.3pc), Redbridge (56.6pc) and Croydon (56.5pc).

But almost eight in 10 (79.8pc) Newham schoolchildren received a place at their first choice.

Schools minister Sarah McCarthy-Fry said: “Parents have the right of appeal against any application that has been turned down; and over the summer, local authorities and schools will be re-allocating places where others have moved address or chosen a different education for their child.

“Parents now have a fairer choice because of our action to enforce the code, and also more real choice because there has been a transformation in the quality of our state schools.”

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