Parents in England will find out on Monday whether their child got into their top choice of primary school to begin reception class in September, with many likely to face disappointment owing to the pressure on places in some areas of the country.
On what has become known as national offer day for primary schools, about half a million families will receive emails during the course of the day and letters later in the week confirming whether they have been offered a place at their first-choice school.
Despite fewer applications this year as a population bulge moves into secondary schools, thousands of families are still likely to miss out on their top choice, particularly in London, where just 86% got into their first preference last year, with that figure dropping to 68% in Kensington and Chelsea.
Early data suggested a slight improvement on last year’s figures in some areas. In York, for example, 94.2% of children were awarded places in their first-preference school this year – up from 92.9% last year – and just 11 children failed to secure a place at one of their preferred schools, down from 25 last year.
Last year, 97.2% of four-year-olds in England were offered a place at one of their top three primary schools. Many parents go on to lodge appeals in a last-ditch attempt to secure a place at their first choice of school.
According to the Good Schools Guide, the success rate of primary school appeals varies widely. In 2016-17, a third of appeals in the north-east went in the child’s favour, while the success rate was just 7% in London.
Elizabeth Coatman, the guide’s state education consultant, said: “Children are still being offered places which their parents consider to be inappropriate. Appealing is an option, but with huge regional disparities in the success rates, you shouldn’t count on it going your way.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said “In an increasingly fragmented school system, we lack a coordinated approach to place planning. The government’s own figures show that an extra 654,000 school places will be needed in England by 2026 to meet the 9% rise in pupil population.