Today (Thursday 11 April), the Education Policy Institute (EPI) publish an analysis of the secondary school appeals and waiting list system in England. The report shows that around 86,000 families in England were not offered their first choice school (in 2016/17).
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, commented: “Until the government comes up with a national strategy to guarantee there are enough school places for every child in England, the annual anxious wait for families will always be a problem.
“For too many, there will be huge disappointment. In some parts of the country, it will mean children having to travel long distances to go to secondary school or being separated from their peers. Children from disadvantaged areas are disproportionally impacted, as this report shows, being half as likely to secure their top choice of school through the appeals and waiting list system than those in affluent areas.
“In 2018, the proportion of first preference offers dropped to 82.1%, compared to 83.5% in 2017. This equates to just over 104,000 young people who did not get what they wanted. It’s an issue which isn’t going away.
“The government’s own figures show that overall population in secondary schools is projected to reach 3,267,000 in 2027, 418,000 higher than it was in 2018, and a 14.7% increase over the whole projection period. There is a desperate need for long-term planning that spans all sectors.
“Local authorities are responsible for providing sufficient school places but the powers and resources necessary to do so have been removed. They are unable to require academies to expand, for example. In an increasingly fragmented school system we lack a co-ordinated approach to place planning. Instead it’s haphazard; decisions are being made in isolation and new schools and new school places are not always being commissioned in the areas they are most needed.
“Until some agency at the local or regional level has the information and the clout to prioritise school places where they are most needed, parents and children will always be unsure that the system will give them what they want."
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