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One in five children miss out on first choice of school - early survey

Nearly one in five children could be missing out on their first choice of secondary school this year, figures suggest.

Around half a million families are finding out which school they have been allocated on National Offer Day.

But early figures suggest that tens of thousands of pupils across England are facing disappointment after failing to secure their preferred school.

A Press Association survey shows that around 82% of 11-year-olds received their top choice this year, meaning that some 18% - close to one in five - have missed out. This equates to almost 70,000 children.

Overall, there were around 390,660 applications and 320,812 received their first option.

These figures cover 60 local councils that responded to questions, plus 33 London boroughs.

Last year, official government figures showed that one in six (15.9%), did not get their top preference, amid a 2.8% rise in applications, with 548,006 submitted in total. New statistics for this year will not be released until the summer.

The Press Association survey also indicates that councils are facing a rise in applications again this year, and many are seeing a fall in the proportions of pupils offered their first choice.

Out of 52 councils that gave information, 24 had seen a drop in the proportions of pupils winning their favoured school, while 17 had seen a rise. The rest saw no change.

And out of 50 that gave data on application numbers, 43 had seen a rise in the numbers of families applying and seven had seen a drop.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said earlier: "The proportion of parents getting a place at their first choice of school remains stable, and last year almost all parents got an offer at one of their top three preferred schools.

"Nearly 600,000 additional pupil places were created between May 2010 and May 2015, and the Government is now pushing ahead with the creation of a further 600,000 new school places as part of its wider £23 billion investment in the school estate up to 2021."

Malcolm Trobe, interim general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: "Parents should be aware that government policy is helping to create a lottery in the supply of school places between different areas of the country.

"In some areas there is pressure on places, while in others there is spare capacity. One reason for this situation is that new free schools are not always opened in the areas of greatest demographic need, especially at secondary level.

"Where this is the case, a new free school may create spare capacity in the area, and this can affect pupil numbers, and therefore funding, at neighbouring schools, and in the new free school itself.

"The Government believes this creates competition and drives up standards but there is no evidence that this is the case and it may damage existing good schools in the area."

Shadow education minister Angela Rayner MP said: "The system for school place planning is broken.

"The Tories' unjustified fixation with free schools means new schools are opening in areas which do not need them and just last week the National Audit Office reported that the Government are not doing enough to ensure all parents can exercise choice when selecting the right school for their children."

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