Anger as one in six children miss out on secondary school places

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Scores of children in the Portsmouth area will miss out on their first choice school on March 1, according to a new study.

More than 90,000 children in England will miss out on their first choice school.

The Good Schools Guide predicts that ‘National Offers Day’ will see many families receive a satisfactory offer for a school lower down their list of preferences, but some children will be offered a school which is underperforming or geographically inconvenient.

The problem is expected to be worse than last year due to an increase of 16,000 applicants.

In the South East, the proportion of children offered their first choice school was as follows:

- 88,724 children applied for places. 86.6% of them received a place at their first choice school – an improvement on last year’s 85.1%.

- The Isle of Wight registered the highest rate in the region – 94.8% - for places offered at first choice schools, while Slough offered only 71.1% of applicants a place at their first choice school, the second worst rate in the country outside of London.

- Kent dealt with 16,172 applications, up 278 from 2015 (15,894). The increase is the equivalent of the year 7 intake of two average-sized schools. Kent is the largest single education authority in the country.

Nationally, 84.1 per cent of applicants in 2016 were offered a place at their first choice of secondary school, marginally down 0.1 on the 84.2 per cent figure in 2015.

96.5 per cent of applicants received an offer for any of their preferred schools, slightly upon 2015’s 96.4 per cent.

Bernadette John, a director at The Good Schools Guide says, “We speak to parents every year who are disappointed and angry with the school offers their children have received. Families are complicated and there can be many reasons why a school is not a good fit for a child.

“It is not always ambitious parents eager for places at the most academic school. Challenging the decision can work but parents have to build a compelling case and provide documented grounds.

“Across the country we see about a 20% success rate when parents do decide to appeal.”

For parents disappointed with their school offer but uncertain what to do next, The Good Schools Guide (www.goodschoolsguide.co.uk) recommends the following:

- It is your legal right to appeal to any the schools on your original application. There is no need for a solicitor but a number of organisations, including The Good Schools Guide, can provide assistance.

- It may go against your instincts but accept the place your child has been offered. However determined you are to find an alternative, if you don’t accept this initial offer, you run the risk of your child having no school to go to in September.

- Once you have accepted the place, get on the waiting lists for other schools you prefer – even schools not on your initial application. All kinds of things can happen between now and the start of the new academic year which could result in places being freed up.

- Try not to be too dismissive in front of your child of the school you have been offered. In the worst case scenario, that will be the school they go to come September and it would be easier for them not to start off thinking it’s a disaster zone.

- Take a moment to check out the school in greater detail. It might be better than you fear. Even if the local reputation of the school is bad, that could be based on out-of-date information. Look at its most recent Ofsted report. Check out last year’s public exam results. You could even speak to parents at the school gate.