Thousands of children miss out on first choice of primary school

As many as one in four children did not receive their first choice of school in some areas

Rachael Pells
Education Correspondent
,Dave Wheeler
Tuesday 18 April 2017 18:12 BST
A further 295,000 new pupils are expected to enroll in the school system by 2020
A further 295,000 new pupils are expected to enroll in the school system by 2020

Thousands of children in England have lost out on their first choice of primary school this year, as councils face increasing pressure to provide enough places for the rapidly growing population.

More than 600,000 four-year-olds were due to be allocated school places for September on what has become known as National Offer Day.

While many parents expressed disappointment, early indicators suggest more than 91 per cent of pupils in England did receive their preferred choice of state primary school.

Provisional analysis by the Press Association showed this to be a rise of 2.9 per cent on last year’s official Government tally.

Of the 50 local education authorities (LEAs) analysed just 15 (30 per cent) had seen a decline in the percentage of pupils getting a place at their first choice school.

Councils including Birmingham, Kent, Brighton and Hove and Essex all reported a higher proportion of parents receiving their preferred choice on last year.

Areas of highest demand were less triumphant, however, with one in four children missing out on their first choice of primary school in some local authorities.

In London, almost 3,000 children were rejected by all three of their preferred schools, leaving parents waiting longer to hear where their children might be placed.

Pupils from poorer families were statistically twice as likely to miss out, with research from Teach First suggesting just one in six of those from disadvantaged backgrounds win places at the best primary schools.

A number of parents took to social media to express anger and disappointment after receiving neither of their preferred choices.

“I've just received my daughter’s primary school results,” one parent known as Lora told The Independent. “In our area we are told to apply for three that we want, with the top one usually being in the catchment area.

“We were refused for all three and given a school which is an hour’s walk away and not at all what we want out of a school.

“It makes me feel angry because not only were the schools close by but they were very highly recommended and had excellent Ofsted ratings,” she added.

“The school that was chosen for us in not as good and is an all catholic school, which I don't have a problem with, we’re just not catholic and don't want our daughter to be focusing on classes we feel are not relevant to her upbringing.

“I feel like we are having to give in to a worse school just because of overcrowding. Even though we were in the catchment area for two of our three choices.”

Another parent, Isabelle Rodriguez, from Peterborough, said she had applied for her child to attend a school near friends, but had ended up with their second choice – a much bigger school with two reception classes.

Snap general election: The public reacts

“We are happy for our child to attend but worried about the social impact,” she said.

“[It’s] something to prepare our child for… daunting for a child so young and for parents too I think. We do worry about making the right choice and it's scary sometimes."

The largest drop in satisfaction was seen in Northumberland, where 88.8 per cent of new primary pupils were allocated their first choice – down from 94.7 per cent in 2016.

Of those increasing the percentage of children getting a place at their first choice school, the largest increase was in Kingston-upon-Hull, which rose to 94 per cent from 87.5 per cent last year.

Redcar and Cleveland in the North East had the highest overall percentage of students getting their first choice place, with 97.85 per cent.

Responding to the figures, Councillor Richard Watts, Chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Over recent years councils have created an extra 600,000 primary places. This is a demonstrable record that they are doing everything they can to rise to the challenge of ensuring no child goes without a place.”

Last year one in four primary schools was reported as full or oversubscribed, fuelling concerns for how local authorities would cope with a further 295,000 new pupils expected to enroll by 2020.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, the largest teachers' union, said: “The NUT hopes that families receive good news about the primary school place they have been allocated for their children.

”For many, however, it will be a day of huge anxiety because their child is placed in a school which means long journeys on a daily basis, missing out on going to the same school as siblings or not getting a place at all.“

A Department for Education spokesman said the Government was ”making more good school places available so thousands more families have the choice of a good local school“.

”We have already set out plans to make more good school places available - including scrapping the ban on new grammar school places, and harnessing the resources and expertise of universities, independent and faith schools.“

Join our commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies


Thank you for registering

Please refresh the page or navigate to another page on the site to be automatically logged inPlease refresh your browser to be logged in