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Fewer pupils get top school choice

Tens of thousands of children missed out on their first choice of secondary school this year as the proportion of youngsters gaining their top preference fell for the first time in five years, official figures show.

Around one in seven 11-year-olds did not get a place at their favoured school, according to data published by the Department for Education (DfE).

For the first time, figures are also available on the proportion of children winning a place at their first choice of primary school, revealing that around one in eight lost out on their top choice.

It also shows that around 3,700 youngsters (0.6%) were not given one of their preferred primary schools, or an alternative, effectively meaning they had no offer at all.

Around 500,000 children in England received a secondary school offer on March 3, on what is commonly known as National Offer Day.

The figures show that 85.2% were given a place at their first choice, down 1.5 percentage points on last year.

This means that around 14.8% of applicants - about 77,100 youngsters - missed out this year, compared with around 66,500 (13.3%) last year.

Around 95.5% of 11-year-olds got one of their top three preferences, down from 96.5% last year, and 96.8% were given an offer from one of the schools they listed as a preference, down from 97.8% in 2013/14.

Families are often able to list up to five or six preferred schools on the application form.

For the first time this year, there was also a primary National Offer Day, on April 16, when families across the country were told which primary school their child would be attending from September.

The data shows that 87.7% of the more than 623,000 applications were awarded a place at their first-choice school.

An analysis of the figures shows that this means around 76,600 four and five-year-olds lost out on their top pick.

Around 95.7% of children won a place at one of their top three choices, while 96.4% were given a place at any of their preferred schools.

The statistics also show that at both primary and secondary level there was a rise in applications this year.

A DfE spokesman said: "Ensuring enough school places for the growing population is one of our top priorities. That is why we have more than doubled to £5 billion the funding available to councils to create new school places, and are allowing good schools to expand without the restrictions and bureaucracy they faced in the past.

"This has already led to the creation of 260,000 new school places across the country. Thanks to our reforms, the number of children in failing secondary schools has already fallen by a quarter of a million since 2010."

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