Fewer pupils get a place at their preferred school
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A shortage of teachers could be contributing to one in five children missing out on their first choice secondary school in Essex, it has been warned.
Figures released today revealed that in Essex, 84.2% of parents were offered their first preference - the lowest figure since 2012, when only 82% got into their first choice school.
A spokesman for Essex County Council said: “Essex has four highly selective grammar schools and many more people put down these schools as their first preference than there are places.”
But Jerry Glazier, the National Education Union’s Essex branch secretary, is concerned a shortage of teachers in Essex schools could be a factor.
He said: “The perceptions of a school’s popularity need to be addressed. Local authorities should be ensuring that all schools in the county are outstanding and there is a big issue with teacher shortage in Essex, which is a real worry.
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“Essex is also an unusual county as the number of grammar schools distort the opportunities.”
Meanwhile in Suffolk there were an additional 260 applications for secondary school places this year compared to 2017 and 90% of those applying were given a place at their top choice school.
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This figure was down slightly from 91.61% last year.
Almost 95% of Suffolk families applied online for places, while some parents sent in traditional forms and will receive their offer in the post in the next few days.
Councillor Gordon Jones, Suffolk County Council’s cabinet member for children’s services, education and skills, said: “I am delighted to see that we have met more school preferences than in previous years, especially as we have received more applications than last year.”
Labour opposition councillor Jack Abbott argued: “It is concerning that one in 10 children in Suffolk missed out on a place at their first choice school this year.
“Unless the disparity in our education system is eliminated, hundreds of families will continue to be left disappointed.”
In Essex, a spokesman for Essex County Council said: “To compare the levels of parents offered a first preference for their children between Essex and Suffolk is not a fair comparison. Essex has a much bigger population than Suffolk, which creates more competition for the best school places in the county.”