Fewer pupils may have got first-choice primary school place

Heads call for 'national strategy to guarantee there are enough school places for every child in England'

Tes Reporter

A Press Association survey suggested a smaller proportion of pupils may be getting a place at their first-choice primary school.

The proportion of pupils getting a place at their first-choice primary school may have fallen this year, a survey on National Offer Day 2019 has suggested.

Early indications from the Press Association survey also suggest that local authorities have seen a slight rise in the number of applications.

At least 86 per cent of youngsters are gaining their top preferences, with the figure rising as high as 98 per cent in some areas.

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Of the 45 authorities that replied to the survey, there were 191,427 applications for primary school places, up from 191,154 last year.

About 175,000 (91 per cent) gained places at their first choice, down from 92 per cent last year.

A further 5 per cent secured their second choice, while 1 per cent got their third choice.

More than 4,000 children (2 per cent) missed out on a place at any of their top three schools.

Northumberland County Council reported that 98 per cent of applications had gained an offer from their most desired school.

By contrast, the figure from Liverpool City Council was only 87 per cent.

Liverpool also reported one in 20 children (5 per cent) missing out on all of their top three choices.

Separate figures collected by London Councils – the local government association for Greater London – show that 86 per cent of this year's 96,598 applicants in the capital secured their first-choice, lower than the 91 per cent across the 45 authorities in the PA survey.

London's most competitive borough was Kensington & Chelsea, where only 66 per cent of children bagged a place at their first-choice primary school.

The boroughs where the highest proportion got their preferred school were Barking & Dagenham (95 per cent) and Newham (94 per cent).

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the NAHT headteachers’ union, said: "The problem is that in an increasingly fragmented school system, we lack a coordinated approach to place planning. Local authorities are responsible for ensuring sufficient school places, but the powers and resources necessary for them to do so have been removed.

"Until the government creates a national strategy to guarantee there are enough school places for every child in England, the annual anxious wait for families will continue."

Sara Williams, chairwoman of the Pan London Admissions Board, said: "In London, 94 per cent of schools are rated 'good' or 'outstanding' by Ofsted, which makes it very likely that parents will receive a high-quality school place offer for their child.

"While the total number of primary school applications received in London this year was slightly lower than last year, pressure on different schools and local authority areas can vary.”

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