The proportion of children obtaining places in first-choice secondary education is declining

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The proportion of students getting places in their first-choice high school has declined, according to the figures.

Almost a fifth of children missed their first choice of secondary school, reaching more than two in five pupils in parts of England, according to data from the Department of Education (DfE).

It comes as the number of applications to secondary schools in England rose 0.8% to just over 605,200.

Figures show that 81.1 percent of children starting high school in September received an offer from their first-choice school, up from 82.2 percent last year.

Slough had the lowest proportion of families getting their first pick at just 56.1%, followed by Hammersmith and Fulham and Richmond upon Thames in London.

The DfE said that figure would have been affected by the delay in selective school testing due to the pandemic.

In some local authorities – including Slough – parents could name selective schools on the application form when their child may not have reached the level required for an offer.

Statistics show that the proportion of children who complete their preferred primary school has increased from 90.2% in 2020 to 91.8% this year.

The number of primary school enrollments in England fell 5.1% to around 580,700.

Geoff Barton, secretary general of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “Most students earn places in their prime schools, but a significant number, especially at the high school level, do not, and this is sure to be very disappointing for the families concerned.

“The main reason this is happening is the competition that exists for places in schools that are rated as good or exceptional by Ofsted.

“These schools are often over-subscribed and some families are therefore missing out on their first choice.

“The solution is for the government to give more support to struggling schools and ensure that every family has access to a good place in a school.

“Unfortunately, the current system is not working well enough for the schools that face the greatest challenge and the communities they serve. “

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of the school leaders union NAHT, said: “Until the government sorts out its act and comes up with a national strategy to ensure there are enough places in school for every child in England the anxious annual wait of families will always be a problem.

“For too many people there will be a huge disappointment. In some parts of the country, this will mean children will have to travel long distances to attend high school or be separated from their peers.

“The government’s own figures show that an additional 418,000 secondary education places will be needed in England by 2027, to meet the 14.7% increase in the school population.

“There is a desperate need for long-term planning that covers all sectors. “

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