More parents failing to get children into their chosen school

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The Independent Online

Parents are increasingly failing to get their children into their favourite state schools, figures showed yesterday. More than 90,700 parents could not enrol their child into the school of their choice last year. But the number who successfully appealed has fallen steadily over the past six years.

Parents are increasingly failing to get their children into their favourite state schools, figures showed yesterday. More than 90,700 parents could not enrol their child into the school of their choice last year. But the number who successfully appealed has fallen steadily over the past six years.

Overall, only 21,200 appeals succeeded last year, down from 21,500 in 1999-2000, the figures from the Department for

Education (DfES) show. The position has deteriorated dramatically at primary school level after government legislation limited infant class sizes to 30 children.

There was a marked fall in the success rate of parents appealing against rejection by primary schools: from 48 per cent in 1996-1997 to just 35 per cent last year. The chance of success against secondary schools has remained roughly constant, with 32 per cent successful last year, compared with 31 per cent in 1995-1996.

Under the rules, state schools that have spaces cannot turn pupils away, but when schools become oversubscribed places should be allocated in a "fair and transparent way", according to published criteria. The job of appeals panels, independent of the school, is to decide whether it has performed its admissions procedures fairly.

Economists say a good school can add thousands of pounds to the value of nearby houses. Parents try to secure their children places by moving into the right catchment area.

Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said: "Parents are now in a Catch-22 situation. We very much wanted a reduction in class sizes but achieving it has reduced our choice." The answer was to let popular schools expand, for example to become two-form entry rather than one.

Margaret McGowan, of the Advisory Centre for Education, which advises parents on education issues, said: "It's obviously down to class-size legislation. It is now much harder to win an appeal. The class size limit is perhaps too rigid." She said securing a secondary school place could still be difficult. "Secondary school admissions are still fraught in some areas. Parents feel desperate if their children are not given a school they are happy with."

Helen le Fevre, from Lewisham, south London, who has three children, was elected as a councillor in May's local elections representing a party set up to campaign for a new secondary school, the Local Education Action by Parents Party, because of the strength of local feeling about school-place allocation.

She said: "There is no such thing as parental choice. All parents can do is fill in as many school application forms as they can get their hands on and hope their child is successful. It is a very unfair system."

A spokeswoman for the DfES said: "There are proposals in the Education Bill before Parliament for the school admissions process to be co-ordinated by LEAs, so every parent in an area can be offered a place for their child on the same day. This will eliminate the situation where some parents hold multiple offers of places, and others have none."

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