Half of Students in England Locked Out of First-Choice School

The prediction made just last week on the eve of UK secondary school assignments becoming public has come true. The Daily Telegraph reports that due to space shortages and a growing number of students, nearly half of applicants have been denied a spot in their first-choice school.

The problem was especially acute in large cities, and districts with more grammar schools were nearly as likely to end up in their second — or even a third or fourth — choice school as they were to get a spot in their first. In Buckinghamshire, for example, 46% of students were rejected from their first-choice school, while in Slough the number was 45%.

In London, where officials were sounding a warning about lack of funding guarantees from the government to go towards building new classrooms, nearly 40% of all students had to make do with their second choice school

The disclosure came as more than 500,000 pupils across England received secondary school allocations on Friday as part of National Offer Day.

The Government insisted it was easing the pressure on the most popular schools by allowing head teachers to expand and giving parents powers to open their own "free schools".

To combat the problem, the government has approved an ambitious £4 billion school improvement program to add classrooms to secondary schools in the areas with the most shortages. The money couldn't come too soon as a report published by the Department of Education shows that more than 20% of all secondary schools in the country were either operating at or over capacity.

The shortages have driven parents to distraction with many claiming that they're developing health problems due to constantly feeling under pressure to make sure their kids get into the best possible school. Nav Johal, who is the founder of the Examberry Tutor Agency – one of many utilized by families to get their kids ready for secondary school admissions exams – said that one mother complained of losing her hair from the worry.

Last year, around one-in-seven pupils missed out on their first choice secondary school and almost one-in-20 were rejected from three institutions.

Figures from local authorities suggest the overall rejection rate in 2013 may be lower. Of those that responded, 57 per cent revealed more parents secured their first choice, a quarter reported a drop and others said numbers remained the same or failed to provide comparable data. This is partly because of a lower birth rate in the year 2001-02.

03 5, 2013
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