More children in London get first choice of primary school amid fall in demand

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More children in London have secured a place at their top choice of primary school amid a decrease in demand for places across the capital.

The number of applications for places at primary schools in the capital has fallen this year – and families leaving London due to changes in their “working patterns” has played a part, councils have said.

Overall, 88.57% of pupils who applied to start at a London primary school this autumn received an offer from their first preference, compared to 87.93% last year, figures show.

Across the capital, 87,277 pupils applied for a primary school place – a 2.67% decrease on last year.

London Councils, which collated the figures, said application numbers were affected by a range of factors – including the falling birth rate and families leaving the city during the pandemic and following Brexit.

A breakdown by London borough shows significant differences in the proportion of families securing their top choice, with more than a quarter of youngsters missing out in one borough.

Kensington and Chelsea had the lowest proportion of children getting their top choice at 70.53%, and in Camden 81.30% secured their first preference.

The City of London had the highest proportion of first preferences at 95.83%, followed by Barking and Dagenham where 95.52% secured their preferred school.

The reduction in demand for primary school places has the potential to impact funding of individual schools as the majority of school revenue funding is allocated on a per pupil basis, councils have said.

A report, by London Councils in January, warned that school leaders and local authorities could be forced to merge or close schools amid funding pressures.

It added that schools may also have to reduce the number of teaching and support staff, or narrow the curriculum offer and extracurricular opportunities.

“We remain keen to work with Government to respond to pressures surrounding primary school places and to support the growing demand for development of specialist SEND (special education needs and disabilities) provision at a local level, ensuring that that all London pupils have the best start in life.”

Jane McSherry, spokesperson for the Pan-London Admissions Board, which has overall responsibility for co-ordinating school admissions in the capital, said: “Challenges such as falling birth rates and family migration from London have led to a continued decrease in demand for school places and resulted in a reduction in total applications this year.

“Boroughs are supporting schools to deal with this challenge, meet the needs of our youngest residents and ensure school places continue to be available where there is demand.”

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