“Almost a third of parents in London did not get their first choice of secondary school for their child this year. This means 25,931 children across London missed out on their first-choice of school. London, and in particular Inner London, is right down the bottom of the league table for parental choice (4).
“David Cameron said parental choice was one of his priorities but the Tories’ education reforms are failing to deliver this in London, and are letting children and parents down." said Ms Harman. "It’s one of the biggest concerns for parents in my constituency of Camberwell and Peckham that they don't have confidence in their local school and either their children have to travel miles to go to a school they do want, or end up in a school which they didn't choose."
Ms Harman is today calling for action from the House of Commons Education Committee, The Secretary of State for Education and the London Mayor. She has
- written to the chair of the House of Commons Education Committee Chair Neil Carmichael MP to ask him to conduct an inquiry into the issue of parents not getting their first choice of secondary schools.
- written to the Secretary of State for Education Nicky Morgan MP repeating her demand that Ofsted’s terms of reference should be widened to include the issue of parental preference in their inspections.
Currently when inspecting a school, Ofsted talk to staff, pupils and to parents who do send their child to a school but not to those parents who live locally but don't want their children to go to that school. "The views of parents who want to avoid the school are every bit as important as those of parents who do send their children to a particular school," said Ms Harman. “Ofsted should survey and report on the views of parents who don’t want their children to attend that school”.
And Ms Harman is calling on the candidates for the new Mayor of London who'll be elected next May to commit to making this issue a top priority. "This is a London-wide problem which Boris Johnson, the current Mayor, has shown no interest in and on which he has taken no action."
Ms Harman has published a report on parental choice in her constituency showing the oversubscribed and undersubscribed schools. (1) For Harris Academy in Peckham, there are only 41 first choice applications for 180 places. “It's no good Ofsted and the school saying what a great job they do. They must understand and address the reasons so many parents don't want to send their children there."
For further information contact Rachel Smethers on 0207 219 2057 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
Notes to Editors:
1. Harriet Harman MP today publishes her annual school choice report ‘Are parents in Camberwell & Peckham getting the choice of secondary school they want for their child?’ A copy of the report can be found here
2. In 2015 only 59.6% of parents in Southwark got their first preference secondary school, compared to the national average of 84.2%. That is the fourth lowest of all the local authorities in the country and means 1,049 children in Southwark were left without their first choice school. 99.7% of parents in Central Bedfordshire got their first preference.
3. The lowest 10 local authorities across the country are all London boroughs. In London as a whole only 68.9% of parents got their child into their first-choice secondary school this year. In inner London boroughs the situation is even worse – just 65.8% of parents got a place for their child in their first choice of secondary school.
4. Offers for entry to secondary schools in England in academic year 2015-16
Top and lowest 10 local authorities by % of highest preference offers made
Rank out of 151 local authorities:
1. Central Bedfordshire 99.7%
2. Northumberland 98.5%
3. Cornwall 97.3%
4. East Riding of Yorkshire 97.1%
5. Wakefield 96.2%
6. North East Linconshire 96.1%
7. North Tyneside 96.0%
8. Devon 96.0%
9. Derbyshire 95.8%
10. Somerset 95.8%
142. Hackney 65.0%
143. Brent 64.3%
144. Merton 62.8%
145. City of London 61.9%
146. Lambeth 61.8%
147. Lewisham 61.5%
148. Southwark 59.6%
149. Wandsworth 57.8%
150. Westminster 57.0%
151. Hammersmith and Fulham 55.3%
Source: Secondary school applications and offers in England: June 2015, DfE. Data collected from local authorities on Secondary National Offer Day on 2nd March 2015