UK National Offer Day Disappoints as Many Miss First Choice School


Close to 100,000 children in the United Kingdom have potentially missed out on their first choice of secondary schools as the result of an escalating places crisis taking place across the country.

Some areas saw as many as half of all students not being admitted to their top choice school, while thousands were not placed in one of even their first six choices on National Offer Day.

Councils are saying the increase in the secondary school population is the result of a baby boom coupled with high migration.

Half a million families received their assignments during National Offer Day last week, showing that the issue is now spreading to major cities as council officials in areas such as Birmingham, Greater Manchester, the West Midlands, Kent and Berkshire all reported high percentages of students not being enrolled in their top choice school.

A sample survey of 20 councils found 75% reporting an increase in applications since last year.

Justine Roberts, chief executive of Mumsnet, called the admissions system in areas such as London, Bristol, East Sussex and the Midlands “seriously creaky,” adding that stories of families who cheat the system are continuously being shared. Roberts says that is causing fears and anxiety about the situation to rise as Mumsnet users continue to report being unable to enroll their children into the schools closest to their own houses, reports Sean Coughlan for the BBC.

In a survey by the Daily Mail, 31% of children in Birmingham were found to have been denied their top choice schools while close to 7% were offered a school not found in their top six options.  Results were similar in Warwickshire, where 23% missed out on their top choice and around 5% did not get into one of their top six.  In Sandwell, 26% did not get into their top choice with close to 7%, or over 300 students, receiving an offer of enrollment at a school not on their list.

Those results seemed to be typical for the year, as Trafford Council found 20% did not get their first choice.  Meanwhile, 18% did not get their top choice in Reading and 19% did not in Brighton, reports Eleanor Harding for The Daily Mail.

The percentage was found to be even worse in London, where one-third of all students did not receive their top choice school placement, although the worst results were found in Hammersmith and Fulham, where 48% of students did not receive their top choice.

Proportions increased in areas like Kensington and Chelsea, Southwark, Lambeth, Lewisham, Greenwich, Wandsworth and Westminster, which saw 40% of students miss out on their top choice school.

Despite these findings, some areas saw varying proportions with a rising number of families striking luck, such as in East Riding, where 96% of students received their first choice and only 0.8% didn’t get one of their top three options.

Similar results were seen in Leicester County with 95.5% of students getting into their top choice and Norfolk County, where 94.7% received their top choice.

Last year, a total of 533,314 applications for a secondary school place were received in the UK, with 84.2% of all students in England receiving admission to their preferred school.

Complete figures for this year will not be released by the Department of Education until June.