Railway children go in search of best schools

Pupils across England are commuting further as parents shop around for the high performers in the league tables

ENGLAND'S most popular schools are proving so attractive to parents that their children are turning into commuters, a TES analysis of government figures reveals today.

Rural Rutland ranks the highest in having the most popular schools, measured by the numbers of children they educate who live in other local authorities.

But successful secondaries in central London are drawing children from as far as Hertfordshire, Kent, Essex and Bedfordshire.

Meanwhile, more than 200 travel the 1hr 45min journey from Islington and Hackney to schools in Hertfordshire every day.

The journeys were revealed in Department for Education and Skills data setting out the relative popularity of schools in different areas of England. They disclose which authorities "lose" pupils to their neighbours, and which gain them. The analysis shows where each child lives and whether they attend a school in their "home" authority area or elsewhere.

Schools in Rutland, England's smallest county, emerge as the most attractive. Its schools attract proportionally more pupils from outside its boundaries than those in any of England's 149 other council areas. It narrowly beats Westminster for pulling power.

Next on the list are other relatively wealthy areas: Bath and North East Somerset, Richmond upon Thames and West Berkshire.

The figures show how schools in urban authorities lose pupils to those in rural areas. For example, both West Berkshire and neighbouring Wokingham are in the top 40 authorities for attracting pupils.

But this is at the expense of nearby Reading, which loses the most secondary pupils of any authority outside London. Three travel 19 miles to Slough daily.

Similarly, Bristol, one place above Reading in the tables, and with 15,854 secondary pupils, loses more than 4,000 of its pupils to schools 12 miles away in Bath and North East Somerset, South Gloucestershire, and North Somerset. Nottingham, Leicester and Manchester also lose large numbers of pupils to other areas.

Bottom of the league nationally is Lambeth in south London, although the council said this was because of a shortage of places in the borough - a problem which it is addressing.

Margaret Morrissey, of the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations, said some of the journeys would reflect some parents'

unhappiness with their local secondary. Other journeys are made because parents like the idea of educating their children near their work.

Corresponding figures for primary schools show that more than one in three children educated in Kensington and Chelsea, west London, are drawn from outside the borough.

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