Fall in pupils getting first choice schools in Wigan

Wigan has seen an increase in secondary school applications
Wigan has seen an increase in secondary school applications

Hundreds of Wigan children have missed out on a place at their preferred secondary school this September, figures show.

School leaders warned that pressure on secondary schools is likely to intensify in the coming years, after the proportion of families in England having to settle for another school increased for the fourth year in a row.

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Department for Education data shows 3,301 of the 3,696 secondary school applicants in Wigan received an offer for their first-choice school for the coming academic year – a rate of 89 per cent.

This was a fall compared to the previous year, when 95 per cent got their first choice, and represents a five-year low.

A further seven per cent of this year’s applicants got their second choice and one per cent their third choice.

Overall, this means 97 per cent got one of their top three preferences, above the national average of 93 per cent.

However, 116 pupils – three per cent of the total – didn’t get any of their preferred schools.

Parents could choose up to three schools, but didn’t have to use all the options.

Applications have increased by five per cent over the last year, and by 15 per cent since 2014.

Across England, 81 per cent of applicants got into their first-choice school this year, down from 82 per cent the previous year.

The Department for Education said the rate was evidence of continuing success in the face of rising pupil numbers.

Coun Jenny Bullen, cabinet member for children and young people at Wigan Council, said: “This year we saw an increase in the number of pupils applying to secondary school so we are pleased that each of them has been offered a place and 97 per cent have got a place at one of their preferred choices.

“We have a great track record in the borough for enabling children to get into the primary and secondary school of their choice.”

School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “Wherever they live and whatever their background, children deserve the best in education.

“Since 2010 we have created more school places and seen school standards rise, meaning there is a greater opportunity for pupils across the country to go to a good or outstanding school.

“Our school system has improved beyond recognition in the last nine years, which means that even the small minority of parents who didn’t get one of their top choices this year can feel confident their child will still get a world-leading education.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said pressure was likely to increase on schools over the next five years, with the number of secondary school pupils across England expected to rise by another 376,000.