89 per cent get first choice school

The Oxford Times: Cllr Zoe Patrick Cllr Zoe Patrick

NEARLY 90 per cent of Oxfordshire children due to start school in September have been allocated a place at their first choice.

But the number is down more than a percentage point, 89.09 from 90.66, and Oxfordshire’s cabinet member for education has warned of challenges to come.

Figures released yesterday reveal an additional 361 applications this year – 7,545 compared with 7,184 last year.

The number of five-year-olds in the county, currently at 7,976, is projected to peak at 9,017 in 2019 according to the Office of National Statistics (ONS).

Oxfordshire county council cabinet member for education Melinda Tilley said: “Like many other areas we are expecting the school age-population to continue to rise in the coming years.

“In circumstances where demand for places at particular schools exceeds their capacity, the reality is that not everyone can be offered a place.

“That means while most Oxfordshire families will be receiving the news they were hoping for, there will also be some disappointed families.”

Education expert Dr Mary Bousted yesterday said England is facing a “growing crisis” in primary school places, with tens of thousands of children missing out on their first choice this year.

In Oxfordshire, where 100,000 new homes are due to be built by 2031, many towns are feeling the squeeze.

The number of houses in Wantage and Grove is planned to increase by 5,500 in the next 15 years.

Charlton Primary School in Wantage opened a 30-pupil extension last September which was full straight away.

County councillor for Grove, Zoe Patrick, said: “We need new school places sooner rather than later.

“Last year, some parents in Grove got a place for one child in the village and had to send a sibling two-and-a-half miles away to Wantage.

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“You can appeal against the decision but it is a tortuous process.”

Since 2009, OCC has created about 1,000 new reception places across the county.

It is currently expanding 20 primaries, nine due to be completed in September this year, and 11 the following September.

Any family who has not received a first-choice offer have the option to appeal, and remain on continued interest lists for their preferred school, in case spaces become available before September.

s To tell us about your experiences contact Pete Hughes on 01865 425431.

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