Suffolk sees increase in pupils securing first choice primary school
PUBLISHED: 18:34 16 April 2018 | UPDATED: 18:34 16 April 2018
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The number of Suffolk parents who will see their child go to their first choice primary school has risen, it has been revealed.
But the news was tempered by fears that proposed transport changes could see parents put off applying to certain schools in the future.
Suffolk County Council received a total of 7,544 applications for a place in reception year in September, with parents picking which school they would like their child to attend. This year, more than 94% of pupils were offered their first choice of school, up by 0.6% on last year.
However, councillor Jack Abbott, Labour’s spokesman for education, worries that proposed cuts to free school transport, which could affect up to 3,700 children in the county, could limit the choices parents have in the future.
The proposed cuts are likely to target free transport offered to children who travel to a school that is not the nearest to their home. A public consultation on the proposals, which ended in December, offered three options - an all-in-one change in September, gradual year-by-year changes or to make no change at all.
Mr Abbott said: “It is encouraging that so many kids get to go to their first choice schools but you have got to question what will happen in the future.
“It is really welcome but frustrating they are pushing a change that will remove choice from a lot of families.
“If a parent has to pay £1,000 to get their child to their first choice school or drive them, which has an impact on their working hours, the next knock on effect is that you create a financial-based system for schooling.
“Why do we need to change it when we have a system that is working quite successfully?”
Of the parents applying for a school place, 94.6% were offered their first choice, with 98.8% offered one of their three top choices. Around 400 children did not get into their parents’ first choice school, with around 90 missing out on their top three.
Councillor Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said he was delighted more children got their first choice school.
He said: “At a time when many areas across the UK are facing real issues in finding enough primary school places, I am delighted that this year over 94% of children in Suffolk received a place at their preferred school.”