More children could lose out on their top choice of secondary schools places this year amid a boom in pupil numbers, it has been suggested.
Hundreds of thousands of families across England are today finding out what secondary school their child will be attending from this September, on what is commonly known as National Offer Day.
Last year, around one in six 11-year-olds did not get their favoured school.
Secondaries have been seeing an increase in numbers prompted by a spike in the birth rate in the early 2000s, that is now making its way through the school system.
Malcolm Trobe, deputy general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), told the Press Association that providing enough places is a complex issue, and that in areas where there are not enough places it is a “mathematical certainty” that families will miss out on their top choice.
“Unless there’s the provision of sufficient supply to meet the additional demand then people are going get less first choices. That’s a mathematical certainty.”
Official figures show that pupil numbers in England’s secondary schools are expected to grow by half a million over the next eight years, Mr Trobe said, with around 65,000 more youngsters expected to join secondary schools this autumn alone.
He said that the Department for Education has done a “reasonable job” in working with local councils to increase places, but added that there are still issues.
Demand is not spread equally across the country, with enough places in some areas and a squeeze in others.
“The biggest difficulty is that it is patchy,” Mr Trobe said.
“Some areas are not going to have any problems, they have enough schools and they are not full, others are seeing a huge increase (in numbers) and not enough places.”
The last time the proportion was above 16% was in 2010.
Justine Roberts, chief executive of Mumsnet, told the Press Association: “Many parents believe getting into the right school has a big impact on their children’s life chances and happiness, so it’s a much-discussed topic on Mumsnet.
“The school admissions system is all about where you live, and parents’ experiences differ accordingly. In a survey of Mumsnet users, 56% reported not having a ‘real’ choice when it came to schools their children had a realistic chance of getting into and many Mumsnet users say that their children can’t get into schools that are a few hundred metres away from their front doors.
“In areas where popular schools are over-subscribed, our users report finding the process pretty darned stressful.
“Stories abound of some families cheating the system, which only adds to people’s anxiety and sense of injustice; the consensus on Mumsnet is that more needs to be done by central and local government to address the problems now, rather than waiting for places to come online in a few years.”
“This builds on the 735,000 places we’ve created since 2010 – meaning nine out of 10 pupils get one of their top three choices of schools.”
The study, based on an analysis of Ofsted rating of schools in the poorest 20% of areas in England, calculates that in all areas of the country, the most deprived communities are less likely to have good or outstanding schools.
But it adds that this varies depending on region.
In London, 33% of schools in the poorest areas are considered outstanding, compared to 10% in the East Midlands, 6% in the East of England, 5% in the North East, 5% in the North West, 6% in the South East, 0% in the South West, 21% in the West Midlands and 14% in Yorkshire and the Humber.