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One in 10 parents not getting first choice primary school – study

18 February 2010 2,313 views 4 Comments

By Caroline Gammell Telegraph
parentsMore than one in 10 parents are not getting their first choice of primary school, a new study shows. Some parents are not even applying for a place in what they think is the best school because they believe it is so oversubscribed. Campaigners and opposition MPs claimed the figures were proof that the Government was failing to tackle a problem which was only getting worse. The research also showed degree-educated mothers were less likely to get their child into the school of their choice than a mother with only a few GCSEs. Five per cent children UK-wide attended a private school, but that figure rose to nine per cent in England and 18 per cent in inner London. The figures were released as part of the Millennium Cohort Study, a wide ranging piece of research which has been tracking this group of 10,000 children since birth. Dr Kirstine Hansen, who coauthored the study with Professor Anna Vignoles, said 94 per cent of parents appeared to have secured their preferred choice of school. This rose to 98 per cent in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland. However, the researchers found that when asked if they would have liked to apply to a different school, up to seven per cent of parents said they had not got their first choice and preferred another school. The figures then dropped to 88 per cent in England, 91 per cent in Scotland, 92 per cent in Wales and 95 per cent in Northern Ireland. Dr Hansen said: “One explanation is that most parents selected a school that was likely to admit their child, which may not have been their real choice. “Parents are loathed to admit that they haven’t done the best in terms of their child’s education. “If you unpick that, you discover that they would have preferred somewhere else.”

Margaret Morrissey, from the campaign group Parents Outloud, said parents were increasingly frustrated by not being able to send their children to the school of their choice. “This problem is rising,” she said. “We have got more and more unhappy parents every year. “Whatever the Government says they are doing, they are not tackling the problem. “When we keep hearing of the millions that Ed Balls and Gordon Brown put into education you wonder where it is going – it is certainly not into schools.”

David Laws, the Liberal Democrat education spokesman, said the study was a reflection of the lack of confidence in education. It seems that some parents have such little faith in the system they’re not even applying to the school which would actually be their preferred choice. “Labour’s failure to drive-up standards across all schools and the annual clamour for good school places leaves many parents bitterly disappointed.” Michael Gove, Shadow Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families, said: “Now richer parents can either go private or move house in order to get the school they want. “Poorer parents cannot. This means that failing schools with bad management in poorer areas just keep failing – there is no way for parents to do anything about it because their complaints can just be ignored.” A London Councils spokeswoman said: “All local authorities want to be able to offer parents a place for their child at their first choice of primary school, however London faces an extraordinary demand for reception places.”

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  • Lee Ingram said:

    The elepephant in the room – open door policy/mass immigration?

  • Jean said:

    Many parents find the current system incomprehensible at even the most basic level. This article talks about ‘choice’ but when you look more closely, you find that as a parent you’re not expressing a choice at all – it’s a ‘preference’.

    In adddition the admissions code isn’t applied in the same way in all Local Authority areas – each has their own refinements.

    I applaud the research for bringing some of the issues into the public domain, but I suspect it has only scratched the surface of the problem.

  • Ali said:

    In a system where Primary admissions are managed by the infant class size legislation, and there is no “choice advice” – to Secondary, where there is choice advice which is falling short of de-mystifying admissions – is it any wonder that parents are dissatisfied.

    Parents also hold anecdotal ideas about admission that are from the past and misguide their judgement.

    As Jean says, each Local Authority sets its own admissions criteria to suit their demographics, but within that, admissions vary in VA schools whose governing body still set their admissions criteria on an individual basis This just adds even greater complexity.

    www ParentsTakePart com

  • lesley said:

    This is just a shortened version of the plight of my 11yr old grandson Charlie. He is the youngest of 3 brothers, all of them having done well at primary school, all reaching level 5s in sats etc., my daughter managed to get the eldest of her children into a decent local secondary school that was right for him, he was not given any of the preferences she put on her form, he is now in sixth form doing his A levels. The middle brother has a place at the same school on the sibling criteria and is taking his gcse maths a year early, so as you can see she is very much impressed with the school, the school is very family orientated. In 2009 when it was Charlies turn o go to secondary school she obviously put down the same school as her first preference, she also put down other preferences , he got none of them an d was offered a place at the nearest school with a vacancy, this is the worst performing school in a London Borough which is at the bottom for education, Barking and Dagenham, she refused and appealed and subsequentley lost. This was discussed with Charlie and the rest of the family and it was decided that he would be taught at home until such time a place became available at his first preference. The education dept. took the sibling criteria away, but all the details of this from the when and why’s were very sketchy, supposedly done on a parental vote, we have seen very little evidence of this

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