My Department is today publishing the statistical release “Secondary School Applications and Offers 2010” which can be viewed on the DCSF Research and Statistics Gateway. This statistical release was produced by officials working under the direction of Government statisticians in accordance with the code of practice for official statistics and was released at 9.30 today.
The schools admissions code and related legislation ensure that all school places are awarded in an open, fair and transparent way. We have outlawed unfair and covert admission practices which disadvantage low-income families. The code has transformed the admissions system by placing parents and families at the heart of the process, helping them to choose the best school for their child. We have extended the role of the independent schools adjudicator, ensuring he is there to champion fair access for all, allowing him to look into any admission arrangements that parents feel are unfair or overly complicated as well as requiring him to monitor compliance and report to me annually.
The Information as to Provision of Education (England) Regulations 2008 require local authorities (LAs) to submit data to the Department on how many families received an offer of a place at one of their preferred secondary schools. This year on Monday 1 March, almost 530,000 families were advised as to which secondary school their child was being offered a place at.
Today we are publishing validated data, based on returns from 151 LAs, showing that across the country 83.2 per cent. of families received an offer at their first preference school—the same percentage as last year. A further 8.6 per cent. of families were offered a place at their second preference school and 94.9 per cent. were offered a place at one of their three preferred schools. In total, 96.6 per cent. of families were offered a place at one of their preferred schools. I am placing a copy of these data in the Libraries of both Houses.
There is considerable variation nationally. Outside of London, more than 86 per cent. of parents were offered a place in their first preference school. For Greater London, this figure is 66 per cent. However across London, almost 94 per cent. of pupils have been offered a place at one of their chosen schools.
Parents have the right of appeal against any application that has been turned down; and over the summer, local authorities and schools will be re-allocating places where others have moved address or chosen a different route of education for their child.
Parents now have a fairer choice because of our action to enforce the code, and also more real choice because there has been a transformation in the quality of our state schools. More schools are judged by Ofsted as outstanding. In 1997, 45.1 per cent. of pupils achieved five or more A*-C at GCSE compared to 69.7 per cent. in 2009. No Government have done more to reduce failure. In 1997 half of all secondary schools were below the basic benchmark of 30 per cent. of pupils achieving 5A*-C at GCSE including English and maths, it is now one in 13.
We will continue to look at ways to improve the admissions system to ensure that it has families and children firmly at its heart. I will today place a copy of a report by the chief schools adjudicator on misleading applications for school places in the Libraries of both Houses along with my response.
While the chief schools adjudicator has found that only a tiny minority of applications are misleading, this is clearly an important issue. Every place that is awarded through deception is denying another child their rightful place. I accept the findings of the report and will work with the adjudicator on addressing the issue.