Complaints over getting school places are up to 10 times higher in some areas than in others reports Clare Dean
THE unhappiest parents in England live in or around Bury, Blackpool and the London boroughs of Enfield and Westminster - at least when it comes to getting their children into the secondary school of their choice.
An analysis by The TES of the latest official figures covering admissions appeals for every English education authority shows that these parents are the least likely to be fobbed off with what they consider to be second best.
Parents in Enfield are almost three times as likely to complain as their neighbours in Haringey.
In Bury, where there were 713 appeals lodged over the 2,282 secondary places available in 199798, parents were 10 times more likely to kick up a fuss than those in neighbouring Rochdale.
High levels of complaints were also registered in South Gloucestershire, and the London boroughs of Hounslow, Sutton, Bromley - and Islington, which has had to hand over services to private contractors.
Areas where complaints accounted for less than 1 per cent of admissions included Hartlepool, Cheshire, Cum-bria, Knowsley, Cambridgeshire, North Lincolnshire and Rutland.
The analysis is based on Department for Education and Employment figures relating to school admissions in the 199798 academic year.
These showed that complaints increased by 6 per cent across all schools - but rose by 15 per cent in secondaries.
According to the DFEE, 46,100 appeals were lodged by parents over secondary places, compared with 40,000 in the previous year.
Appeals for primary places fell from 32,600 to 30,900 during the same period.
Perhaps not surprisingly, parents were most likely to appeal over places at grant-maintained schools - 8 per cent of all admissions from GM primaries and secondaries.
Although figures for appeals were high in individual authorities - 38 per cent in Enfield and 31 per cent in Bury - nationally just 7 per cent of schools admissions went to appeal.
Harold Williams, Bury's chief education officer, said: "We are a high-performing authority and there is a lot of interest in our schools from parents who live in neighbouring councils."
Enfield, which has historically had pressure on places, said it welcomed appeals from parents and helped them through the process.
"It's a double-edged sword really," a spokeswoman said. "You could interpret the figures as a bad thing or a good thing. We think it is good because parents know about their rights."