One in six fails to get first choice of school

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The Independent Online

More than 90,000 children have failed to find a place at the secondary school of their choice, according to official figures released yesterday.

They show that just over one in six children – 91, 896 – lost out in the scramble to find school places. Opposition MPs immediately seized on the figures, saying they showed that too many schools were underperforming. As a result, parents were flocking to the few they considered good.

The figures are a slight improvement on last year, when 82.1 per cent of parents were offered a first choice place, compared with 83.2 per cent this year. The national figure also masks great regional variations, with one in three children missing out in Greater London.

Margaret Morrissey, of the parents' pressure group Parents Outloud, said the figures meant the lives of thousands of parents "have been devastated". She added: "I still think we've got a long way to go. Over 83 per cent have got their first choice, but it remains that there's still 17 per cent who haven't and 17 per cent is an awful lot of children. For that 17 per cent, there's no consolation in the Government patting themselves on the back and saying things have improved."

Nick Gibb, the Conservative schools spokesman, said the figures "clearly show us that England does not have enough good schools". He added: "So many parents are disappointed, including up to a third of those in London, because there are simply too few schools judged to be of good quality."

But the Schools minister, Sarah McCarthy-Fry, said parents now had "a fairer choice" after the introduction of a stricter code on admissions outlawing interviews and requests for cash donations to schools. The Government has also ordered an inquiry into how schools use lotteries to determine allocations, she said.