11 per cent denied 'first choice of primary school'

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The Independent Online

One in nine children is being denied their first choice of primary school, new figures suggest.

In some areas of England, close to one in five youngsters are missing out on their preferred option, while in others almost all get the school they choose.

A Press Association survey using figures from 43 local authorities outside London reveals that just over 27,000 children (11.3%) have been refused a place at their first choice primary school for this September.

If these figures were replicated across the country, it suggests as many as 68,000 children could be missing out on a favoured place, given an average year group of 600,000 pupils.

The survey also reveals that a child's chances of gaining a place at their first choice depend on the area they live, with as few as 5% and as many as 20%, missing out in various parts of the country.

Many councils say they have seen a rising birth rate in recent years and are providing additional places to meet demand.

Figures published by the Pan London Admissions Board last month, which are not included in today's survey, revealed that 21% of youngsters in the capital did not get their first choice primary schools for this September.

Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of parenting website Netmums, said waiting to learn what school their child will attend is very difficult for parents.

"It's extremely stressful for a parent seeing their child not get their first choice - more than anything you put yourself forward for, you can take that on the chin.

"But with this, it does feel like your child is being rejected, so it becomes very emotional.

"If you can absolutely demonstrate that it (admissions) has been done fairly it's easier to cope with, but there always seems to be someone who can tell you 'so and so got in'."

If any part of the admissions process starts to feel unfair, then it is hard for parents to accept, Ms Freegard said.

"It's when you hear about schools and a parent has just started going to church because they want a place, and they get it, when another family who are regular churchgoers and don't get a place, or because they live 0.1 of a mile further away. It's difficult."

Ms Freegard said she would recommend that parents who do not get their first choice of school stay on the waiting list, as children can drop out and they may still get a spot.

And she suggested that many parents find, after just a few weeks, that they are content with the school their child did get a place at.

"If it's a school where the child can be happy and nurtured, that's so much more important than when they learn their times tables."

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "There simply aren't enough good schools. The best are many times oversubscribed - forcing parents to send their children to weaker schools which lack the academic standards and good behaviour they demand.

"Children only get one shot at education which is why our reforms are designed to deliver higher standards and genuine choice for parents. We want to improve discipline, give greater freedom to heads, attract the best graduates to teaching, expand academies, set up new schools and we will not hesitate to step in to turn around weak schools.

"Only when every school is considered a good school will we start to remove the anxiety parents suffer when choosing a school for their child."