Rise in proportion of pupils not getting top secondary-school choice

The proportion of children missing out on a place at their top choice of secondary school has risen to the highest level since the start of the decade.

Some 16.5% of 11-year-olds across the country - about one in six - did not get their first preference this year, up from 15.9% in 2016.

The last time the proportion was above 16% was in 2010.

Figures from the Department for Education also show one in 10 youngsters (10%) were not offered their first choice of primary school - an improvement from roughly one in nine (11.6%) last year.

Applications to primary schools are falling, thanks to a drop in the birth rate since 2013, meaning a greater percentage of children are being offered a place at their first choice.

By contrast, applications to secondary schools have been rising steadily in recent years, prompted by a spike in births in the previous decade.

A total of 562,487 applications were made to secondary schools across England this year - the highest number since 2008.

Some 96.1% of youngsters received an offer from any one of their preferred secondary schools, down slightly on 96.5% in 2016.

But a child's chances of receiving a first preference depended greatly on where they live.

North-east England saw the highest proportion of first-choice offers for secondary schools - 90.9% - just ahead of south-west England (90.8%).

London had the lowest proportion - 68.2% - though the figure was slightly higher in outer boroughs (69.8%) than inner boroughs (64.9%).

The local authority with the best first-preference rate this year was Northumberland (98.2%), followed by Cornwall (97.3%) and Bedford (96.8%).

Northumberland and Cornwall have been in the top three for the past three years.

The number of applications for a primary school place in 2017 was 620,330, a drop of 3.3% on the total for 2016.

A total of 97.7% of children received an offer this year from any one of their preferred primary schools - up from 96.9% in 2016.

North-east England saw the highest proportion of first choice offers (94.1%) while London reported the lowest proportion (85.9%).

Responding to the figures, a Department for Education spokesman said: "The vast majority of parents continue to secure a place at their first choice of school for their child, 86.9% - with more than 95% having received offers at one of their top three choices.

"There are already 1.8 million more children in good or outstanding schools than 2010 but we want to do more to ensure every child has access to a good school place."

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