Almost 10,000 children miss out on their first-choice primary school, figures reveal

98 per cent of children in London were offered a place at one of their six preferred schools (PA Archive)
98 per cent of children in London were offered a place at one of their six preferred schools (PA Archive)

Almost 10,000 children failed to get a place at their first choice primary school despite a drop in applications partly caused by families fleeing London, new figures reveal.

Overall, 89 per cent of parents who applied for their children to start in a reception class in September were allocated their top preference school.

This is an increase of 0.6 per cent from last year’s figures.

But at the same time the number of applications dropped by 2.2 per cent.

Experts said the fall in applications was caused by the falling birth rate, and families leaving London due to Brexit, the pandemic and the cost of living crisis.

Despite there being fewer children needing school places, Tuesday’s figures show there is still heavy demand for the most popular schools which remain over-subscribed.

Families were on Tuesday finding out which school their children will start at in September. They are allowed to list six schools in order of preference.

Data from the Pan London Admissions Board, which coordinates school admissions in the capital, reveals:

  • 98 per cent of children were offered a place at one of their six preferred schools. This percentage has not changed since last year despite the number of children applying for places dropping.

  • 89 per cent (76,064 children) were allocated their first preference school.

  • 97 per cent of children were offered a place at one of their top three schools – an increase of 0.1 per cent on last year.

  • 85,336 children applied for a place in Reception – a 2.2 per cent decrease on last year.

  • 1,540 children did not get a place at any of their preferred schools.

A statement from the Pan London Admissions Board said: “Application numbers vary across boroughs and are affected by a number of reasons, including the falling birth rate across London.

“Other important factors impacting application numbers include migration, such as families moving due to changes in their circumstances and working patterns, along with the localised effect of the UK leaving the EU in some areas.”

Jon Abbey, chair of the Pan-London Admissions Board, said: “Challenges such as falling birth rates and family migration from London have led to a continued decrease in demand for school places and resulted in a reduction in total applications this year.

“Boroughs are supporting schools to deal with this challenge, meet the needs of our youngest residents and ensure school places continue to be available where there is demand.”

Children who did not get their first preference school will automatically go on the waiting list for schools they listed as higher preference.

Tuesday’s results also reveal stark differences across parts of London.

Children in Hillingdon were the most likely to get into their first-choice school, with 95 per cent being successful.

More than 90 per cent of children in Barking and Dagenham, Bexley, Hackney, Richmond upon Thames, Newham, Sutton, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest were also allocated their first preference schools.

But in Kensington and Chelsea just 75 per cent of children got into their top-rated school, while only around 80 per cent of children in Hammersmith and Fulham, Wandsworth and Westminster were successful.

The Pan London Admissions Board said there are enough primary school places to meet overall demand across London.

Despite this, some schools remain more popular than others with parents for reasons including academic performance, religious ethos, proximity to the parents’ home or work, whether the child already has siblings attending or because the school offers a specialism which would benefit the child.

A spokeswoman said: “The heavy demand for certain schools inevitably means that some parents will be disappointed.”