First-choice secondary school offers rise - but still below decade high

The number of students receiving their first choice has risen in both Suffolk and Essex Picture: GET

The number of students receiving their first choice has risen in both Suffolk and Essex Picture: GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

The number of children in Suffolk and Essex receiving places at their first-choice secondary school has risen slightly after several years of decline.

Figures released on Monday revealed that 91.4% of children in Suffolk had received offers from their top preferred school - an increase from 90% last year.

However, the number of first-choice offers remains lower than the figures for 2012 and 2013, when 96.8% and 96.75% of children respectively were allocated a space at their preferred school.

In total, 97% of the 8047 applications for the 2020/21 school year were allocated a space at one of their top three choices.

Mary Evans, Suffolk County Council's cabinet member for children's services, education and skills, said: "I am pleased that this year more families have once again received their first choice of school, and that the vast majority of families have been offered a preferred school place.

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"I appreciate that not all families will have received a place at their preferred school and where a parents' preference for a Suffolk school is refused, we will automatically add their child's name to the waiting list for that school.

"We will also send them information about how to lodge an appeal should they wish to do so.

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"Starting secondary school is an important moment for any child, and the more we can do to make the transition to a new school smoother for them, the better."

Jack Abbott, Labour's education spokesman at Suffolk County Council, said "hundreds of families will be left disappointed" as the number of students receiving their first-choice school remains low compared to previous years.

He added: "While there has been a marginal increase in the number of children receiving a place at their first choice school, the figures for 2019 and 2020 are the lowest they've been for a decade.

"Nearly one in ten children in Suffolk have missed out on a place at their first choice school, a sharp contrast to 2012 and 2013 when it was just 3%.

"The flagship Tory 'Raising the Bar' policy failed to achieve its own targets and has now been abandoned, leaving 20% of schools in Suffolk rated as 'inadequate' or 'requires improvement'."

Meanwhile in Essex, 16,101 applications for school places were submitted - with 85.45% of children receiving offers from their first-choice.

This was an increase of 1.21% compared to 2019's figures, with Essex County Council attributing the rise to recent investment in school places.

Ray Gooding, Essex County Council's cabinet member for education, added: "I am delighted that, once again, we have been able to offer so many pupils their preferred secondary school place.

"It is an exciting time for pupils across the county and I hope they enjoy their last few months at primary and junior school before they set out on their next academic adventure."

However, NEU Essex branch secretary Jerry Glazier said: "There's still 15% of students not going to their first choice.

"We need to make sure all schools are adequately resourced."

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