Almost one in five pupils missed out on their first choice of secondary school this year, new statistics from the Department for Education reveal.
The statistics show that in 2019, 80.9 per cent of pupils were offered a place at their first preference school compared to 82.1 per cent in 2018.
It means pupils applying in 2019 had the lowest chances of getting a first-choice place since 2010.
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But there are wide regional variations in the chances of pupils getting a place at their first-choice secondary – with just 54.8 per cent of pupils in Lambeth doing so, compared with 98.4 per cent of those applying in Northumberland.
The proportion of secondary pupils receiving an offer from any of their preferred schools also dropped from 95.5 per cent in 2018 to 94.8 per cent in 2019.
There were 604,496 applications for secondary school in 2019 – an increase of 3.7 per cent on 2018.
But at primary school, the number of pupils applying for places has largely stabilised, with 608,957 applications received in 2019, compared to 608,180 in 2018.
At primary 90.6 per cent of children got into their first-choice primary school, slightly less than last year's 91 per cent.
The proportion of primary applicants receiving an offer on any of their preferences was stable at 98 per cent.
Nick Gibb, schools standards minister, said: “Wherever they live and whatever their background, children deserve the best in education. Since 2010, we have created more school places and seen school standards rise, meaning there is a greater opportunity for pupils across the country to go to a 'good' or 'outstanding' school.
“This means that, despite rising pupil numbers and the highest number of applications at secondary level for 12 years, the vast majority of parents sending their children to school this September received one of their top three preferences of either primary or secondary school.
“Our school system has improved beyond recognition in the last nine years, which means that even the small minority of parents who didn’t get one of their top choices this year can feel confident their child will still get a world-leading education."