Children are missing out on their chosen schools with many oversubscribed schools, especially in big cities. However, the situation varies considerably across the UK. We look at some of the areas where demand is outstripping supply.
Most popular grammar schools
Getting your child into their chosen school is getting more difficult than ever. According to figures from the Department for Education, 82.1% of secondary school applicants in England got a place at their first choice in 2018 – a drop from the previous year.
However, the figures for oversubscribed schools vary considerably across different parts of the country.
Take London. Figures show that almost half of pupils missed out on their first choice of secondary school in parts of the capital for the September 2018 intake.
Children in Hammersmith and Fulham had the smallest chance of getting into their preferred school. In this borough, just 51% were allocated their first choice.
And in Kensington and Chelsea, the City of London and Lambeth 55% or less got into their favoured school.
The reason? This year an extra 3,908 children applied for secondary school places in London, bringing the total to 92,509. And while nationally 83.5% of pupils were granted their first choice, in London that figure was just 66%.
Not just London
Not that London is the only city with oversubscribed schools. The picture in other big cities such as Birmingham is broadly similar. Just 19 per cent of those who put King Edward VI Handsworth Grammar School for Boys as their first choice secondary secured a place for this September.
The school had 1.4 first preference applications for each of its 143 places – 204 in total. And of those who put the school as their first pick, only 38 were successful.
Other Birmingham grammar schools were also popular with King Edward’s Five Ways the second most oversubscribed school in the city with just 27% of those who put it as a first preference for getting a place. There were 2.5 first preferences for the school, a total of 457, for each of its 181 places offered.
But it’s not the same everywhere. For example in Bradford and the East Riding of Yorkshire more than 96% got into their first choice school, well above the national average, while in Northumberland 98% were successful.
The places with the highest rate of first choice secondary school offers are:
- Northumberland – 98.1%
- East Riding of Yorkshire – 96.7%
- Bedford – 96.4%
The places with the lowest rate of first choice secondary school offers are:
- Hammersmith & Fulham – 51.4%
- Kensington and Chelsea – 54.3%
- Lambeth – 55.2%
Increasing Grammar school demand
What is certainly true is that demand for Grammar schools is higher than ever in areas of England where they are still prevalent (there are 163 Grammar Schools in England, compared to around 3000 state secondary schools). That’s according to a BBC Grammar School survey.
“Right across the country grammar schools are oversubscribed,” Philip Bosworth, Treasurer of The National Grammar Schools Association, recently told The Telegraph. “Parents are exercising their choice for their children to sit the 11-plus.”
And although Prime Minister Theresa May abandoned her pledge to build more Grammar Schools following a disastrous election which saw her majority wiped out, official figures show that Grammar schools are educating the highest number of students since 1998 when Tony Blair passed a law that prevented the building of new grammar schools.
Most grammar school places for 20 years
The BBC’s analysis shows that while there 110,600 grammar school pupils, aged 11 to 15, in 2010 the number increased to 118,200 by 2017 (the figures do not include burgeoning sixth-form numbers). This rise in the total roll of 7,600 students is equivalent to building 11 averaged-sized grammar schools.
And by 2021, the data suggests, the number of extra places created will be equivalent to 24 new grammar schools compared to eight years ago, including sixth form students.
“This proves that new grammar schools are needed and especially in the 75% of the country where there are currently no grammar schools,” commented the National Grammar Schools Association’s Treasurer Philip Bosworth. However, instead, existing grammar schools have simply expanded the number of forms to cope with growing demand.
One parent Ruth Cornish explained that she was delighted that in Gloucestershire, where she lives, every grammar school has expanded the number of places since 2010. “I think it’s a consumer society – parental demand is there and children want to go,” Ms Cornish told the BBC.
Not all bad news
The good news for parents is that the BBC’s Grammar School study also found that the growth in grammar school numbers is currently outpacing the growth in 11 to 15-year-olds in most local authorities where they still exist.
For example, Warwickshire has seen the number of 11-year-olds go up 7% since 2010. However, one nearby grammar school increased its intake by 66 per cent.
It seems that, as with everything, much depends on where you live when it comes to getting the school you want.
If you live in a big city where there is a huge demand for the top state schools – and very few grammar schools – it may be a struggle. However, in other more remote areas, there are fewer oversubscribed schools.
Top 10 Most Popular Grammar Schools that have expanded the most since 2010
Stratford Girls Grammar School, Warwickshire
Bourne Grammar School, Lincolnshire
Newport Girls’ High School, Telford and Wrekin
Alcester Grammar School, Warwickshire
The Boston Grammar School, Lincs
Burnham Grammar School, Bucks
The Tiffin Girls, Kingston Upon Thames
Queen Mary’s Grammar, Walsall
Colchester County High for Girls, Essex
Invicta Grammar, Kent