18. What steps he is taking to ensure that more parents in (a) Sittingbourne and Sheppey constituency, (b) the south-east and (c) England are able to send their children to their first choice of school. (102835)
The latest figures show that almost 86% of parents in England were offered a place at their first preference school starting in September 2012. That compares with 83% for Kent, 87% for Medway and 85% for the south-east overall, but it still means that 74,000 children have missed out on a place at their first choice school, so the broad thrust of our education reforms is to increase the supply of good school places.
I am grateful for that answer. Will my hon. Friend go further and encourage local authorities, when considering appeals for the 2012-13 intake, to take into account the recently updated school admissions code for 2012, which shows a commitment to prioritising previously looked-after children but will not come into force until 2013-14?
My hon. Friend is right to say that we have changed the admissions code so that not only looked-after children but previously looked-after children—those who were in local authority care but who have subsequently been adopted—are given priority in the admissions process. The change is designed to help speed up the adoption system and recognises the difficulties that those children have encountered in their early childhood. Appeals are based on the admission arrangements in force at the time, and so for 2012 they will not include a priority for previously looked-after children.