Secondary School Admissions Lottery

Most parents getting school of choice but nightmare for some

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This week was the deadline set for parents to either accept or decline their children's secondary school place offer. Councils across West London are claiming that the new system which involves a much higher degree of information sharing has been a major success with most children getting into their first choice school. 71% of Ealing families got their first choice school and 80% of those in Hammersmith and Fulham have gained admission to their first or second choice.

Hounslow have not provided figures but anecdotally there appears to have been a much lower success rate. Six families in Chiswick have only been offered places at Hounslow Manor School.

Some could still now get their first choice as places not taken-up are re-allocated. Others will appeal. Parents and carers have until the April 27 to lodge their appeal to have it heard by the end of the school term.

However, only 48% of parents in Wandsworth, 56% in Lambeth and 61% in Barnet got into their first choice school, while Westminster, Kensington & Chelsea and Brent disappointed nearly a third of applicants.

"It is becoming increasingly stressful each year with more and more parents having their expectations dashed," said Martin Rogers from the Children Services Network, a local authority think tank. "Politicians of all parties must take responsibility for stoking up this expectation of endless choice. What parents really want is a good local school and all the present system does is lead to more people being disappointed."

"I have slowly watched this build over the past few years," said Margaret Morrissey from the National Confederation of Parent Teacher Associations. "Many children are so worried about where they will end up that it is affecting their academic work while parents are frantically trying to do whatever it takes to get the best school for their children, often without success."

Speaking to parents from Chiswick's Southfield School, their story is one of surprised delight as many children were offered places in schools such as Ellen Wilkinson which are historically "impossible to get into".

March 17, 2007