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One In Seven Pupils Miss Out On First Choice Secondary School

One in seven pupils miss out on first choice secondary school

The Guardian World News |by Jessica Shepherd

Schoolchildren in classroom

About 74,000 children who applied to start secondary school in September did not get a place at their first choice school. Photograph: Rex Features

Around one in seven children in England missed out on a place at their first preference secondary school this year, official figures show.

Statistics published by the Department for Education reveal that 14.7% of the nearly 504,000 11-year-olds who applied to start secondary school this September did not get into the schools their parents wanted.

This is the equivalent of about 74,000 11-year-olds –5,000 fewer than last year. The slight improvement is in part due to 1.7% fewer applications, although the number of places has remained the same.

Inner London had the lowest proportion of pupils getting their first choice school – 65.8% – while outer London was marginally higher at 68.4%. The north-east of England had the highest proportion of first preference offers at 95.1%.

In some parts of London, competition was particularly tough. Just 53.5% of 11-year-olds in Wandsworth, south London, got their first preference. In Hammersmith and Fulham, in west London, and Southwark, in central London, the figures were 54.4% and 55.9% respectively.

Families were told at the start of this month whether their child had a place. Across the country, 95.9% were offered a place at one of the three schools they listed as their preferred choices. This is a rise of 0.3 percentage points on last year and continues a rising trend.

The number of secondary school pupils under 16 has been in decline since 2004 and is expected to decrease further until 2016.

Nick Gibb, the schools minister, said parents faced an extremely competitive and stressful process for securing a place for their children. “We want to ease this pressure by creating more good school places, which is the driver behind all our reforms to the education system.”

Gibb said the government was allowing the best schools to expand and the growth of academies and free schools meant parents had a wider choice of good schools.


My Child Didn’t Get Into The High School They Wanted – What Do I Do Next?

As we speak tens of thousands of families throughout England are being informed that their son or daughter was unsuccessful in their application for a place in the High School of their first choice and in some cases their second and even third choices. According to the Telegraph analysis of the published data shows that there has been an increased demand for Academies, Free Schools and Grammar Schools and this in turn has raised the rejection rates for 2012. The fact that you are far from alone in your lack of success is of course, no consolation, if you are a disappointed parent or student who has missed out on a place in your preferred establishment.

For many people the next question is: Do I appeal against the decision and if so how do I go about it?

If you do decide to appeal then you have at least 20 days from the day you received the rejection letter in which to lodge an appeal in writing with the admissions authority. The admissions authority responsible will depend on the type of school you are applying to attend:




Type of School Who is the admission authority? Who deals with complaints about arrangements? Who is responsible for arranging/providing for an appeal against refusal of a place at a school?
Academies Academy Trust Schools Adjudicator Academy Trust
Community Schools Local Authority Schools Adjudicator Local Authority
Foundation Schools Governing body Schools Adjudicator Governing body
Voluntary aided schools Governing body Schools Adjudicator Governing body
Voluntary controlled schools Local Authority Schools Adjudicator Local Authority




The first step is check with school’s own admissions code and see if it has obeyed it to the letter and that it hasn’t breached the Government’s simplified School Admission Code which was published last month. It is also advisable to familiarise yourelf with the accompanying School Admission Appeals Code. Even if the decision adhered to the codes then you may still have grounds for appeal on the basis that there are extenuating circumstances for your child attending the school to which you are appealing. For example; your child is dyslexic and the school is the only one in the area with a specialist facility to help dyslexic children or the school has a specialism for which your child has a special aptitude. You are also able to challenge any claim from the school that to admit more pupils would cause overcrowding.

If you do want to appeal but are not certain that you are able to do it on your own then you may want to contact the Advisory Centre for Education Ltd a national charity who will be able to advise you free of charge. It is worth noting however, that success is not guaranteed. According to the Independent, out of the 19,156 appeals lodged last year just 7,289 were successful.

If you do decide to appeal and are unsuccessful don’t worry it’s not the end of the world. If you are trying to get your child into a Grammar School it is possible for them to be added to a waiting list or you can aim for them to sit an entrance exam for a later year group such as Years 8 or 10.

There are also a number of steps that you can take to ease the transition for your son or daughter to the school they will be attending:

  • Disappointment is a part of life but try to see the positives in this setback. Look for good things about the school your child is going to attend: What unique facilities does the school have? Are there trips aboard? Do they have a good reputation for sport or a strong music or drama department etc?
  • Make enquiries to find out if there are any other children in your child’s current class who are going to the same school and try to build links with them.
  • Look around for out of school activities such as drama, scouts, sports clubs etc where your child will be able make new friends who may be going to the same school.
  • Some schools offer year a 6 transition Summer School to enable students to sharpen their skills, meet new friends and familiarise themselves with the school. If they do, take full advantage of everything they are offering.
  • Talk to older children who are already attending your child’s new school and ask them to look out for your child in the first few weeks.
  • Focus on the positives – new friends, new start, new subjects.

Above all – in the words of Monty Python:


Secondary School Choices (What If My Child Didn’t Get Into The School They Wanted)

Parents are being informed over the next few days whether they have been successful in their Secondary school choices for their children. The number of students being successful are mixed although early figures out suggest that more students have been unsuccessful this year than last year.

If your child hasn’t got into their first choice school please check in tomorrow as we will be posting a column advising you in detail on the appeals process.


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