The number of parents appealing over school admissions has fallen for the first time since Labour came to power.
The overall number of appeals made by those unhappy with their allocated school fell by 2 per cent last year, with primary appeals dropping by a tenth.
Secondary appeals continued to rise, but by less than 1 per cent, suggesting they may be starting to level out.
Dr Stephen Gorard, an expert in school admissions at Cardiff university, said falling rolls were the likely cause for the decline in appeals. "This is likely to be largely due to the decrease in pupil numbers in both sectors, creating more surplus places - at least temporarily," he said.
The total number of appeals had risen steadily since 1997, increasing from 85,933 in 199899 to 94,790 in 200103. Yet last year the figure fell to 92,697.
The Department for Education and Skills said it believed that a range of factors was responsible for the drop, including that parents were more satisfied with the schools they were offered.
However, Phil Willis, Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said that the number of appeals remained unacceptably high.
"Failing to bring in one-stop procedures for admissions while allowing yet more schools to have their own admission policies has led to chaos in many areas," he said.
Appeals were lodged against 10 per cent of secondary place allocations last year, but less than 3 per cent of primary allocations.
While parents remained unlikely to win their appeals, the proportion of cases found in families' favour rose from 33 to 34 percent.
At primary level, the number of parents winning cases dropped to 4,822 from 5,510 in 200102. Meanwhile, the number of successful secondary appeals rose from the 200102 total of 16,218 to 16,794.
Dr Gorard said this increase was surprising. "Our interviews with those on both sides of the appeal process suggested that appeals should really only be upheld when a mistake has been made," he said. "One might expect 'mistakes' to decrease with growing familiarity with the system over time."
Admission appeals for maintained primary and secondary schools In England 200203 is at www.dfes.gov.uk