Third of London pupils miss first pick of school as ‘heavy demand’ leaves many parents disappointed


Almost a third of London children missed out on their first choice of secondary school, figures revealed on Wednesday.

It means that almost 28,000 will start a school in September that was not their top choice, while 5,000 children in the capital did not get an offer from any of their preferred schools.

Experts insisted that there were enough secondary school places in London but admitted that the “heavy demand for certain schools” meant some parents would be disappointed.

National figures later this year are expected to show that it is harder to get into a first choice school in London than anywhere else in the country. Last year nationally 83.3 per cent of children got their first choice. Families in London were on Wednesday finding out which secondary school their children will start in September.

Figures from the Pan-London Admissions board, which allocates places, reveal that 69.8 per cent got their top choice. This was a drop of 0.1 percentage points from last year. The data highlights stark differences across the capital, with pupils in Lambeth the least likely to get their first choice — just 62 per cent of children there secured a place at their top school.

But in Barking and Dagenham the proportion of children who were given their preferred school was 82 per cent. Wandsworth, Tower Hamlets and Newham also saw a year-on-year drop in the percentage of children getting their first choice this year.

But Kensington and Chelsea saw the biggest improvement — with 68 per cent getting their first choice this year, compared with last year when 60 per cent were successful — the lowest success rate in the country. Wednesday’s figures also showed that in the capital:

* 5,487 children did not receive an offer for any of their preferred schools. Of these, 5,121 have been given a place that was not on their list.

* 366 children were left with no offer of a place. They have been put on waiting lists in the hope that other applicants will move away or go private.

* 89 per cent of London pupils got a place at one of their top three preferences — the same as last year.

* 94.08 per cent of pupils got one of their top six preferences this year — a marginal increase on last year’s figure of 94.01 per cent.

* In total 92,641 children applied for a secondary school place this year.

Councillor Ian Edwards, London Councils’ executive member for children and young people, said: “It is vital that all children in London have access to a high-quality education. We want to ensure the best possible outcome for applicants to both mainstream schools and for pupils with special education needs and disabilities.

“It is positive that once again the overwhelming majority of children have an offer from one of their preferred schools. Boroughs have worked diligently with schools to ensure there are sufficient places to meet the high demand for school places across the capital. London is an incredibly high-performing region at GCSE level with 90 per cent of schools rated Good or Outstanding by Ofsted, which means local families can be confident that their child will receive an excellent education.”

Pupils applying to start a secondary school in Year 7 must list six in order of preference. Places are allocated by the Pan-London Admissions board.

Jon Abbey, chair of the board, said: “Parents should be reassured that there are sufficient places in London schools to meet the overall demand... With the density of the population in London, it is a huge task for the admissions team to take into account both the number of places available at each school and the eligibility criteria to ensure the best outcome for London’s children.”

London Councils said that some schools remained much more popular than others due to their academic performance, religious ethos or location.