School places crisis as ‘up to half’ of secondary pupils are expected to miss out on their first choice

The Mail is reporting that families across the country are set to be disappointed next week when ‘up to half’ are expected to miss out on their first choice of secondary school in some areas.

Head teachers are facing an escalating places crisis filtering through from primaries which has been caused by a baby boom fuelled by migration.

Ministers have known about the impending problem for many years but councils estimate tens of thousands of extra secondary places will still be needed by 2020.

Figures released yesterday suggest a rising numbers of secondary schools are struggling to keep up with demand, with some only able to take children living minutes away from the school gates.

Almost half of secondary schools in England are now oversubscribed, and the numbers are increasing.

The findings come just days before 11-year-olds across the country learn what school they will be attending from September, on what is known as National Offer Day…

The data, obtained through the Freedom of Information Act, indicates that 47 per cent of secondaries were oversubscribed in 2015 – equivalent to more than 1,500 schools – and this is up from 43 per cent in 2014…

Official figures show that 84.2 per cent of children got their first choice of secondary school last year, down one percentage point from 85.2 per cent in 2014.

However, in London almost a third of children missed out on their first choice and in some boroughs it was half.

There was a 2.3 per cent increase in secondary school applications in 2015, the government data shows…

More at: Families are facing a fresh school places crisis as up to half of secondary pupils are expected to miss out on their first choice


The headline suggestion that half of the pupils will miss out seems to be an exaggeration as the report suggests this will only be the case in the most oversubscribed of areas.

That said, it’s clearly getting crowded out there.

What impact are you seeing from the increasing numbers coming through to secondary level?

More fundamentally, how much does it actually matter if parents don’t get their preferred place as long as they get a local place? Has the perceived right to choose gone too far?

Let us know what you think…

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Pupil numbers bulge causes secondary catchment areas to shrink to less than 1km
Categories: Policy and Secondary.


  1. andylutwyche

    SchoolsImprove In the main any school is what you make of it. Believe it’s poor and it will be; be supportive, it’ll support your progress

  2. F62Forbes

    SchoolsImprove Wonder what % are Church Schools,parents in inner cities use them to get their children away from the influence of gangs.

  3. Typical Mail exaggeration.  And it’s not a ‘choice’ but a ‘preference’.  
    The Mail is misleading (and inflammatory) when it says the rise in demand for school places is solely due to migration.  It says a  ‘In 2013, a leaked paper prepared by the Department for Education revealed a steady increase in the number of babies being born has helped fuel the schools places crisis.’  This implies the data was deliberately kept from the public.  But the data is actually in the public domain.   The Office for National Statistics produced an FAQ sheet (downloadable here, scroll to bottom based on 2010 figures.  
    The ONS said the baby boom which the Mail says is entirely due to migration was fuelled by three factors (of which the number of foreign born mothers was one):
    1  Women born in the 1960s and 1970s who delayed their childbearing to
    older ages and are now catching up in terms of completed family size 
    2  Changes in support for families (for example maternity and paternity leave
    and tax credits) 
    3   Increases in the numbers of foreign born women with above average

    Funny, but the first two don’t get mentioned in the Mail.

  4. paulsnorman

    terryfish SchoolsImprove but the marketisation of education gives every parent choice. Not real choice, but the impression of choice

  5. TW

    Janet2  Possibly because they are such minor factors –

    “The problem currently being experienced in parts of the country – and which will be felt more widely in the future – is due to the rising birth rate, which is overwhelmingly the result of a rise in births to non-UK born mothers.

    This increase in births is primarily as a result of immigration to the UK with over three-quarters of the increase since 2002 due to a rise in births to non-UK born mothers.

    over a quarter of births in England and Wales are now to non-UK born mothers

    It is the increase in births to non-UK born mothers, as well as the growing number of school aged migrants that has created the shortage of school places in England. This is a problem that is only going to grow worse in the future.”

    Of course, had the NuLabour government not been lying through its teeth about the vast number of immigrants it was sneaking into the country local authorities would have been able to plan on the basis of reality rather than politically convenient lies.

  6. @TW Janet2 I think I’d rather trust the impartial Office of National Statistics than MigrationWatch.   The Mail and the Telegraph have both been censured by the Press Complaints Commission for using MigrationWatch figures which could not substantiated: see here and here
    That also goes for what is said about migration by both Labour and Conservatives.
    Of course births to foreign-born women (who, by the way, will include naturalised British citizens, foreign-born wives of British citizens and an (albeit tiny) number of women who were children of British citizens but born abroad) have contributed to the extra demand for school places.  But this is not the sole reason (as claimed by the Mail) or ‘overwhelmingly’ as claimed by Migration Watch.  
    A good source of factual analysis about immigration claims is Full Fact

  7. wasateacher

    It really is ridiculous to think that every parent can get every one of their children into the school of their choice.  This would cost more money than the country can afford, undersubscribed schools and a very unstable system.  The fact that the Government have been pandering to a small group of parents (whilst denying others) is thoroughly dishonest.  We can see this particularly in the ‘free’ schools, where money has been wasted on opening schools which have then closed because there has been so little take up.

    The real losers in all of this are the children who are being used as political pawns.  Those that get accepted into perfectly good schools but which were not their first choice are made to feel they have the short straw or are failures.

  8. wasateacher The National Audit Office (2013) found that in the first two waves of free schools 87% of the primary free schools (the majority) were in areas with high or severe need but only 19% of secondary free schools were.
    Since then, one primary and one secondary free school have been closed – a third has lost its secondary provision.  Others have already changed hands.  These transfers cost money.  For example, it cost £237k to transfer two CET free primary schools in London to their new academy trusts; £110k to transfer Aldborough Primary School, a free school run by E-Act, to its new trust.  It’s not known how much it cost to transfer Enfield Heights, a free school run by CfBT, to CHAT (itself subject to a Financial Notice to Improve) because the DfE won’t reveal the figures claiming it would cost too much to comply with my FoI request.

  9. TW

    Janet2  A Migration Watch press release contained an error regarding what a Migration Watch briefing paper actually said.  Big deal. The PCC did not say the content of the briefing paper was wrong.  There is therefore no substance in your claim.

    The reality is that Migration Watch is if anything more accurate than government figures.  To quote from Wikipedia:

    “Andrew Green has rejected claims that his group have exaggerated immigration forecasts. Giving evidence to the House of Commons Home Affairs Select Committee in January 2006 he quoted an internal e-mail by a member of staff at the Home Office, which stated “I have made this point many times before, but can we please stop saying that Migration Watch migration forecasts are wrong. I have pointed out before that Migration Watch assumptions are often below the Government Actuary Department’s high-migration scenario”.”

    Oxford’s Migration Observatory says much the same as Migration Watch:

    “More than half (53%) of the increase of the UK population between 1991 and 2014 was due to the direct contribution of net migration.” –

    Not surprising as both bodies are well aware of the findings of the ONS.

    This report –

    is also based on ONS data:

    “The UK population is at a record high, official figures show, with net migration having overtaken natural population change to become the largest contributor to growth.”

    I’m not sure everyone is as impressed by the supposed ‘impartiality’ of ‘Full Fact’ as you are.  Its ‘facts’ often seem dubiously convenient for Cultural Marxists.

    But the impartial ONS says in a current paper:

    “The direct effect of net migration has increased the UK population by more than 240,000 people per year on average from 2004 to 2014; this is about 40,000 more people per year than natural change for the same period.” –

    The reality is that the pressure on school places arises from government lies about the huge amount of immigration.

Let us know what you think...