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Parents going to 'extraordinary lengths' to secure first-choice primary school, poll finds

One parent lodged a Freedom of Information request in bid to get coveted first choice

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One parent lodged a Freedom of Information request in bid to get coveted first choice

Almost a fifth of parents are upping their housing costs just to be closer to the primary school of their choice, according to a Mumsnet survey.

The extreme lengths that parents go to ensure their child gets into their preferred school is laid bare ahead of National Offer Day on Monday, when parents discover which primary school their child will attend.

Mumsnet surveyed 1,072 of its users and found that London parents were less likely to get their first choice of school – 21 per cent, compared with 13 per cent nationally. They were also most prone to going to “extraordinary lengths" to secure that first choice place. A third of those living in the capital also reported finding the process difficult, compared with 19 per cent of parents nationwide.

Suburban parents were almost 34 per cent more likely than average to go the extra mile, the poll also found.

The most common measure taken by parents to get their first choice school includes spending extra on a house purchase or rent in order to be in the right area before applications open - a step taken by 18 per cent of those surveyed.

Others (4 per cent) suddenly started going to church, or to "make other religious observance", while some (3 per cent) lived close to the school prior to their older child being accepted by a school, before moving away once they were settled in.

Some showed original flair in their attempt to secure their first choice school: One Mumsnet user, for example, admitted to making a Freedom of Information request to find out how many non-catchment places were taken up by siblings in the previous three years.

Another parent paid for a private school until a first choice place became available.

Overall, 86 per cent of parents said their child had their first choice school accepted.  Most parents (91 per cent) surveyed said they were happy with the school their child ended up with.

Of those who weren’t, almost one in five (19 per cent)  cited the fact the school their child ended up in had a poor Ofsted rating, whilst 14 per cent said the location was an issue.

The majority of parents, (51 per cent) believe the system should be changed so that their children attend their nearest school, according to the survey, whilst just under a quarter (23 per cent) say they are happy with the current process.

The poll was open all UK Mumsnet users with a child currently attending a state-sector community school, free school or academy who is currently in the first three years of primary, or who are home-schooled but applied for a primary school place in the last three years.

Mumsnet founder and CEO, Justine Roberts, said: “With parents anxious to get their children into their first choice school we’re seeing more parents who maximised their chances by moving closer to the school before applications open or who use the schools’ sibling priority

"It’s reassuring to note that most parents will get the school of their choice, but for those who don't it can be horribly disappointing.

"The distilled advice from Mumsnet users is to: take a deep breath, see if you have grounds for appeal, double-check that you're on the waiting list for your preferred school, and don't forget to accept the place you have actually been offered (unless it's somewhere you're determined never to send your child).

"And to remember that almost all primary schools are warm, welcoming, and focused on helping children to socialise and learn.”

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