Agonising wait for 11-year-olds

Parents will "go through hell" this week as they wait to find out if their child has secured a place at the secondary school of their choice, campaigners warned yesterday.

More than half a million 11-year-olds are due find out what school they will be attending from September. Last year, nearly one in five failed to gain admission to their first choice. Competition for places is likely to be most keenly felt in counties that still have grammar schools, and in many areas children will be forced to accept places at their second or even third choice.

As many as 20 pupils are battling it out for each place at some of the most popular schools. Margaret Morrissey of the campaign group Parents Outloud said it was inevitable that many families will end up going through hell: "I hope the ministers are proud of themselves for sitting there for another whole year and just ignoring the problem."