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School Admissions: fewer children get preferred place on National Offer Day

On Monday, 530,000 pupils found out their secondary school placement during “National Offer Day”. For some parents, finding out where their children will be for the next five years must have been a relief but for those who missed out, questions and official appeals will surely follow. Councils across the country have reported that fewer children got their first choice secondary school this year than in previous years. Added competition for places has been blamed due to a massive increase in the application rate.

In parts of London, as many as 4 in 10 children are having to make do with their second or third choice school because of the added demand. Across the country, the figure is only slightly lower. An average of 3 in 10 have missed their top choice school in Birmingham. Last year, 26% of pupils had to settle for a second or third choice school in Birmingham. In Bristol, 23% of all school admissions have sent pupils away from their preferred school, an increase from last year’s 18%. This was the city’s highest rejection rate for four years. In Manchester, 24% missed their first choice school, which is up from the 19% registered last year.

The reason for these changes has been put down to an increase in the number of 10 and 11 year olds in the state education system. Rising birth rates a decade ago, combined with an increase in immigrant numbers, is having an effect on the admission numbers.

There was something of a postcode lottery with school admissions on Monday as almost all pupils in areas like Cumbria, Cornwall and Leicestershire got their first choice placement but those in London boroughs of Wandsworth, Westminster and Hammersmith and Fulham faced the most competition for places.

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