Almost 17 in 20 pupils in have been offered their first choice of state secondary school for September, Brighton and Hove City Council said today (Tuesday 1 March).
But more than 1 in 20 will not be going to their first, second or third preference school. In some cases – 147 in total or 5.8 per cent – those pupils, or their parents, failed to submit an application by the deadline.
The total number of children applying for a place in year 7 in September rose from 2,429 last year to 2,517. Of those, 2,115 (84 per cent) were offered a place at their first preference school. Last year the figure was 1,976 (81 per cent).
Five of the ten state secondary schools in Brighton and Hove were oversubscribed on first preferences alone – Dorothy Stringer, King’s School, Varndean, Blatchington Mill and Cardinal Newman Catholic School.
Some 459 pupils put Dorothy Stringer as their first choice but only 330 places were available, making it 39 per cent oversubscribed on first preferences alone.
The King’s School, the Church of England school currently in Portslade, received 124 first choice applications for 100 places, making it 24 per cent oversubscribed on first preferences.
At Varndean, the figures were 304 first choices, with 270 spaces, making it almost 13 per cent oversubscribed on first preferences.
Some 336 pupils put Blatchington Mill down as their first preference, with 300 places available, making it 12 per cent oversubscribed on first preferences.
And 362 pupils listed Cardinal Newman as their first choice, with 360 spaces available.
The five schools are full along with Patcham High which has 215 places available for year 7 children in September.
A number of appeals are expected where pupils have not been allocated to a school of their choice. And some students may not take up their place – if, for example, their parents move to another area.
Two schools received fewer first, second and third preferences combined than places were available – with Longhill receiving 203 applications for 270 places and the Brighton Aldridge Community Academy (BACA) receiving 143 applications for 180 places.
Councillor Dan Chapman, who chairs the council’s Children, Young People and Skills Committee, said: “I am delighted to see a rise in the numbers of parents offered their first preference school. Equally, I feel for parents who weren’t offered any of their preferences.
“The council has a legal duty to have enough school places available across the city as a whole for all residents who request one.
“We have always tried our best to ensure parents are offered a place in their catchment school if they apply for one. However, we have never been able to guarantee this.
“Dorothy Stringer and Varndean have both taken their full number of students this year. They are operating at the limits of their capacity and expanding them further is simply not practical.
“Parents who aren’t offered a catchment area place will automatically be entered in the reallocation pool for their first preference school if a place becomes available.
“We recognise the need for a new secondary school in the central Brighton area of the city but government rules mean councils are no longer allowed to open new schools.
“We have been working closely with the University of Brighton Academies Trust to help them find a permanent site for their new school which is due to open in September 2018.
“We hope to be able to make an announcement about this shortly.”
The site is expected to be in the grounds of Brighton General Hospital – or in City College’s York Place building which started out as a school in Victorian times.
The head of one of the area’s existing academies, Katie Scott, spoke about the rise in applications for a place at the Portslade Aldridge Community Academy (PACA).
She said that PACA’s year 7 intake would be its largest so far. The number of pupils selecting the school as their first choice rose by more than 80 per cent this year.
She said: “The confidence that prospective parents have shown in us came before our successful Ofsted report and is based on coming into the school to see how calm and productive our lessons are.
“Feedback from parents and students showed how impressed they were with the quality of teaching, the facilities and the way in which students conducted themselves.
“The unique curriculum features such as STEM (science, technology, engineering and maths) on the curriculum in year 7, the junior football and dance academies and the extensive enrichment opportunities were also cited as reasons for choosing PACA.
“We are really looking forward to welcoming year 6 students and parents to the numerous transition events that are planned between now and September.”
She said that more youngsters wanted to join PACA’s sixth form in September but added that applications were still open.
First preferences offered 2,115 pupils (84 per cent) 1,976 (81.35 per cent)
Second preferences offered 174 pupils (6.9 per cent) 279 (11.49 per cent)
Third preferences offered 81 pupils (3.2 per cent) 68 (2.8 per cent)
No preference offered 147 pupils (5.8 per cent) 106 (4.36 per cent)
The council said: “In line with the council’s published arrangements, those who were not offered a place at one of their preferred schools were offered places at the nearest school to their home address that had places available.
“These included 57 pupils in the Dorothy Stringer / Varndean catchment area who expressed a preference for their catchment area schools.
“Appeals relating to school place allocations are heard by an appeals panel that is independent of the council. The panel is not bound by the council’s admission priorities, and its decisions are binding on the council and on schools.”