120,000 parents unable to send their child to their first-choice school

In London almost one in three parents failed to secure a place

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More than 120,000 parents have failed to secure a place for their child at their first choice primary or secondary school, according to official figures.

The situation is bleakest in secondary schools where the percentage offered a place at their first choice school has dropped nationally from 85.2 per cent to 84.2 per cent - leaving more than 80,000 disappointed.

The worst area of the country is London where almost one in three parents failed to secure a place - with almost half in Hammersmith and Fulham (45 per cent) not being offered their first choice school.

In primary schools, the situation is almost identical to last year - with 87.8 per cent getting into their number one choice compared with 87.7 per cent.  Again, London was the worst area for parents - with 41 per cent in Kensington and Chelsea not getting their top choices.

In all, around 120,000 parents have had to make do with a school which was not so high on their priority list.


More than 2,000 parents did not even receive an offer of a school place - although, in many cases, this was because - having not been granted any of their top three choices - they were then sent a list asking them which of the remaining schools they would like their child to go to.

This year’s rise is being put down to the rise in the birth rate - which has seen councils desperately scrabbling to persuade primary schools in particular to create more school places.

Labour has criticised ministers for banning local councils from opening new schools - and insisting that every new school should be an academy or free school. They argue this will mean new schools are not necessarily built where places are most needed. However, the Government has countered by saying it has spent £5 billion on providing new places. 

Figures show the number of applicants to secondary schools has risen by 2.3 per cent while - in primary schools - the increase was two per cent (nearly 13,000 extra children).

Outside London, the worst area for parental choice was the West Midlands with an 81.5 per cent acceptance rate on first offers.  The best performing are was the North East with 92.6 per of applicants being successful.

The Department for Education warned: “The final number of pupils starting in specific schools could be different due to late applicants, refusal of offers, subsequent offers made via a second round or via the schools’ waiting lists or successful appeals.

A DfE spokesman said:  “We are determined to give every family the choice of a good local school for their child.

“That is why we are pleased that despite rising pupil numbers the proportion of parents being allocated one of their top choices remains stable with more than 95 per cent of parents receiving an offer at one of their three preferred schools.

“This reflects the £5 billion investment this government has made in the system since 2010 to create almost half a million new school places.”