3 March 2014

First preferences up in secondary school admissions

More than 95% of schoolchildren in Brighton & Hove have been offered one of their three preferred schools in this year’s secondary school admissions round, with over 120 more children offered a place at their first preference school.

This year the number of applications received within deadline by Brighton & Hove City Council for a secondary school place for September went up to 2344 from 2209 last year.

This year’s preference figures (2013-4) are:

 1st preferences offered  1931   82.38%
 2nd preferences offered  223   9.51%
 3rd preferences offered  75  3.2%
 Directed to nearest school with available places  115  4.91%

Last year’s preference figures (2012-3) were:

 1st preferences offered  1809  81.89%
 2nd preferences offered  265  12%
 3rd preferences offered  69  3.12%
 Directed to nearest school with available places  66  2.99%

The number of children who were not offered one of their preferences has risen this year from 66 to 115. In most cases this was because parents had failed to put down their catchment area school or schools as their preference. It is also partly due to an increase of 125 in the total number of applications.

However, it is also because the council was not able to offer places to 22 children who had put down their catchment area school. This is because there were more pupils applying than there are places available. The 115 pupils involved have been offered places at the nearest schools to their home address that had spare spaces.

The council’s director of children’s services, Pinaki Ghoshal, said: “This has been a good year overall for us in terms of meeting parental preferences. However, we are very sorry indeed that we have not been able to offer places to the 22 children who put down their catchment area school.

“Anyone who is unhappy with their school place allocation has the right to appeal. The panel that hears school appeals is independent of the council, and its decisions are binding on both schools and the council.

“Details of how to lodge an appeal are available on our website at www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/school-appeals

“We introduced catchment areas for our secondary schools in 2008 because under the previous system, which used home to school distance to determine who got places at oversubscribed schools, large numbers of children were unable to get a place at a school that was near to them.

“Since the catchment area system was introduced every child who has stated a preference for their catchment area school – or schools in the two dual catchment areas – has been offered a place either in a school in their catchment area or a school higher up their preference list.

“By law we have never been able to guarantee this. However, the catchment areas were carefully designed to reflect the numbers of pupils and school places available in each area.

“In previous years, where there has been a need for a few extra places we have successfully negotiated with schools to deliver them. Unfortunately this year this has not been possible as the schools concerned have become very full.

“We recognise that since the catchment areas were agreed in 2007 there have been demographic changes in the city. We are also very aware of rising numbers of primary age children in the city.

“We therefore intend to review our secondary admissions system in order to try and minimise the chances of this situation happening in future.

“The current situation also underlines the urgency of the work we have been doing behind the scenes to try and increase the number of secondary school places available in the city.

“We have successfully bid for £12m of government money to provide new secondary places for the academic year 2015-16, and a further £12.6m for 2016-17. We will continue to work closely with our community schools and other education providers in the city to provide the new places needed."