Secondary school place decisions for England pupils
Published: 1st Mar 2011 08:19:23
More than half a million children in England are due to hear whether they have been accepted into their preferred secondary school for this autumn.
About half of them will receive the news electronically on Tuesday, with the rest awaiting letters posted the same day.
Last year, 16.8% of children were turned away from their first choice - a number similar to the previous year.
Early figures suggested a rise in children getting their first choice.
Full statistics on the fates of the 540,000 pupils applying this year will not be available until mid-March.
But of 21 local authorities which provided early figures, 16 had seen an increase in the percentage of applicants accepted at their first choice.
The figures show variation across England, ranging from just 60% getting their first choice in Westminster, and 61% in Southend-on-Sea, to 98% in Leicestershire and 96% in Derbyshire.
Those with the biggest increases on last year were Manchester (83%, up from 78.2%), Newcastle (90%, up from 85.3%) and East Sussex (93.9%, up from 89.3%).
Last year one in six - nearly 89,000 children - did not get their first choice, and 18,000 did not get a place at any of their preferred schools.
School admissions are highly competitive in some areas.
Apart from grammar schools, schools are not allowed to select on ability, except for some schools with subject specialisms, which can prioritise up to 10% of their intake on aptitude for the given specialism.
Admissions policies vary between schools and areas, although the closeness of a child's home, and whether they have a sibling already at the school, are often factors.
Some parents buy homes in catchment areas near popular schools, or join churches to boost their chances of admission to heavily subscribed faith schools.
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: "This is a stressful day for families as they wait to hear which school their child will attend, because the sad fact is there are not enough good schools delivering the academic standards demanded by parents."
He said the government's academies and free schools programmes, as well as reforms on discipline and a push to boost the study of languages, sciences, geography and history all aimed to give parents "more genuine choice of a good school".
The government says it is planning to simplify the Admissions Code - the rules on how schools can and cannot allocate places - so that it is easier for schools and parents to understand.
It is also ending the requirement, which it says is "bureaucratic", for local authorities to establish admissions forums - local bodies which scrutinise admissions policies and practices.
However, the Nasuwt teachers' union warned that this risked "watering down" the rules.
Deputy general secretary Patrick Roach said the move, together with changes to the role of the schools' adjudicator, amounted to the removal of checks and balances from the system.
He warned the move could "undermine fair selection" and "allow some schools to return to the practice of covert selection".
The government's claim to be increasing choice was "arrant nonsense," Mr Roach said, "it won't create more choice for parents, it will create more choice for schools".
In Scotland, school places are primarily determined by the catchment area in which a child lives, although parents can request a different school.
There is no specific date on which families receive details of their school places.
In Northern Ireland, parents and children will find out about their school places via letters posted on 27 May.
Although the 11+ exam, previously used to select students on the basis of ability for grammar schools - was dropped last year, many schools still run their own tests.
In Wales, parents give their preferred schools in order of preference. These preferences must be submitted by a deadline chosen by the local authority.
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Harvard CitationBBC News, 2011. Secondary school place decisions for England pupils. [Online] (Updated 01 Mar 2011)
Available at: http://www.glasgowwired.co.uk/news.php/134360-Secondary-school-place-decisions-for-England-pupils [Accessed 23rd May 2013]
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