Pupils getting into first choice school at highest level in years

The proportion of secondary school applicants who received an offer from their first preference school increased to 83.3 per cent, while the figure was 92.2 per cent at primary level
23rd June 2022, 12:47pm

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Pupils getting into first choice school at highest level in years

https://www.tes.com/magazine/news/general/pupils-getting-first-choice-school-highest-level-years
Cherry, pick

The number of primary and secondary applicants being offered places at their first choice school has risen to the highest level seen in recent years.

The proportion of secondary school applicants who received an offer from their first preference school increased by 2.2 percentage points to 83.3 per cent - the highest level since 2017-18.

While the equivalent figure rose 0.4 percentage points to 92.2 per cent in primaries - the highest in at least a decade.

At primary level, the figures were at least partly down to a small 0.8 per cent drop in applications, which reflects a reduction in births in England from late 2016 onwards.

At secondary level, there were just over 614,000 applications, which is actually a 1.5 per cent increase on last year’s levels, but the Department for Education said this figure was affected by the return of selective school tests to their original timetable.

In 2020, the DfE asked admission authorities to delay testing for the 2021 selective school intake to give children “as much time back in education as possible”, so parents and carers had to name selective schools on the application form without knowing if their child had reached the standard required to be eligible for an offer. 

In contrast, the selection tests returned to their normal timetable this year, so applicants for 2022 entry knew whether they were eligible to be considered for selective schools before having to make their school choices.

Overall, the proportion of all secondary school applicants who were made an offer by any of their ranked preference schools rose to 95.8 per cent from 95.5 per cent, and the figure remained unchanged at 98.4 per cent in primaries.

Julie McCulloch, director of policy at the Association of School and College Leaders, said the union was “pleased” that more families had been given their first preference school place than last year, and said that, at secondary level, this was “quite an achievement” given that it comes in the context of rising pupil numbers in secondary schools.

She added: “However, we know that it is very disappointing for families when they do miss out on the school place they want. The answer is for the government to ensure that schools which face the greatest challenges are better resourced and supported so that every community has access to good school places on their doorstep.

“The government’s obsession with a punitive inspection system and performance tables serves only to stigmatise these schools and make improvement harder to secure.”

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