On the Map - Infant school appeals - Pressure on places takes its toll

16th July 2010 at 01:00

The rising number of appeals over admissions to infant school classes in some areas shows how the increase in birth rate over recent years is now beginning to impact on education.

Calculating school places is a mixture of art and science, and a well-run planning unit is an important part of any local authority's education department - something the Secretary of State should note. As most parents want a local school for their primary age children, there should be few appeals if there are sufficient places available.

These figures, based on 200809, before the general public became aware of the shortage of infant school places, reveal interesting patterns.

To some extent, this is an urban problem. Most rural counties, which have been struggling to keep some village schools open, will see an increase in pupil numbers as an opportunity to keep more schools open, even if they are gathered into federations or other forms of association rather than remaining as standalone schools.

It is in the urban areas that parents, who have more choice, try to exercise their rights. Darlington, although only a small authority, heard appeals equalling 8.1 per cent of its admissions. Not all might have been from local residents; some could have been parents living in surrounding County Durham. Mostly, it is the large cities, such as Manchester, Birmingham, Nottingham and Luton where the level of appeals was highest.

In outer London, Redbridge, an authority with selective secondary schools, was responsible for almost a quarter of appeals lodged.

Other authorities with selective schools were also likely to experience above-average levels as parents recognised that some primary schools achieved better results than others in getting children into grammar schools.

Unless authorities can meet the demand for places, Mr Gove may be deluged with requests for free schools by disappointed parents.

John Howson is director of Education Data Surveys, part of TSL Education.

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