Rising numbers of pupils taken out of private schools by parents who can no longer afford the fees are ending up in tough comprehensives as competition increases for top grammars and academies. One admissions appeals service said enquiries from parents whose child has been assigned to an unpopular or distant school after leaving an independent are up by half on last year.
Overall as many as 100,000 parents across the country face disappointment today when local councils announce secondary school allocations for September. Around one in six families are expected to miss out on their first-choice school on National Offer Day, rising to more than half in parts of London and the South-East. With top secondaries – including grammars, academies, faith schools and flagship government free schools – up to nine times over-subscribed, soaring numbers of parents are expected to appeal.
The competition for these schools is presenting problems for parents forced to abandon independent education for financial reasons whose children, it is claimed, could arrive at their new school ‘with a big target on their back’.
Like Will in the hit TV comedy the Inbetweeners they face a struggle to fit in, especially if sent to schools miles from their friends. Matt Richards, a senior partner in School Appeals Services which helps families challenge admissions decisions, said it had been contacted by 50 per cent more parents than last year who had left the fee-paying sector and were unhappy with the new school.
‘They can’t afford to pay school fees so have had to give notice,’ he said.
‘They thought their child would get into the local secondary school but instead are sent to a school three miles away. It’s very difficult. A child coming from a private school will turn up with a big target on their back.’
He added that some children were ‘sitting at home’ rather than attend the school they had been allocated. The number of pupils in private education dropped for the third year in a row last year. Meanwhile up to nine pupils are vying for each place at England’s over-subscribed academies and free schools, making them as popular as leading faith and grammar schools.
Haberdashers’ Aske’s Hatcham College, an academy in south-east London, attracted 1,517 applications for 161 places, while King Solomon Academy in Westminster drew 480 for 60 slots. The West London Free School, set up by journalist and author Toby Young to provide a grammar school-style education at a comprehensive, attracted 1,070 applications for just 120 places. Tamsin Kelly, of parenting website Parentdish.co.uk, said: ‘National Offer Day is a nightmare for parents in over-subscribed areas.’
Schools Minister Nick Gibb said: ‘There are still too many pupils trying to get into too few good schools. Our school reforms will raise standards and create more good schools.’
Edited by Dave Beans, 01 March 2012 - 10:52 AM.