More Suffolk families left without first choice secondary school as applications soar by 2,000

Stock image. Picture: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire.

Stock image. Picture: Barry Batchelor/PA Wire. - Credit: PA

The proportion of Suffolk families missing out on their first choice secondary school has more than doubled since 2012 amid mounting pressures over school places.

Just over 500 children (7% of applicants) did not receive an offer for their first choice of school for this autumn – up from 160 (3.1% of applicants) four years ago – according to Suffolk County Council figures.

The number of applications has risen by almost 2,000 during the same time. It shot up from 5,154 in 2012/13 to 7,134 in 2016/17 (a 38% increase).

But the Suffolk proportion still remains better than the England average, which was 15.8% last year. This year’s figure will be released in June.

Meanwhile, the proportion of parents who did not receive their first, second or third choices has risen from 0.58% in 2012/13 (30 out of 5,154) to 2.2% in 2016/17 (157 out of 7,134).

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Primary schools have been struggling to keep up with demand in recent years due to a rising population and this is now moving through into secondary schools.

Gordon Jones, cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills at Suffolk County Council, said: “It is extremely positive to see that we have been able to offer a preferred school place to over 97% of the applicants.

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“We use published criteria to decide priority for places so the process is fair and clear. We do, however, understand that some families may be disappointed or anxious about the offer we have made.

“When a parent’s preference is refused, we will put their child’s name on the waiting list for that school automatically and tell them how they can make an appeal, should they wish to do so.

“Starting secondary school is an important moment for any child, so the more we can do to make the transition right for the student, the better.”

Nationally, the Government has pumped £5 billion into creating half a million new places over the last parliament and has committed a further £7 billion over the next six years, while town hall bosses have warned that children could be left without school places if councils are not given more powers to deal with increasing demand.

The Local Government Association has issued a fresh call for authorities to be handed the ability to open new secondary schools, or force academies – which are not under council control – to expand, arguing that without these powers, councils will not be able to meet their legal duty to ensure every child has a school place.

Any parents or carers with children born between September 1, 2004 and August 31, 2005 and who have not yet applied for a school place should contact Suffolk County Council immediately on 0345 600 0981.

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