Exclusive: Pupil numbers bulge causes secondary catchment areas to shrink to less than 1km

England’s bulge in pupil numbers means that the catchment areas of an increasing number of state secondaries are becoming smaller than ever before, according to new analysis seen by TES.

Tuesday is national secondary offer day, when thousands of parents will find out if their children have secured their preferred place. But many are likely to miss out, despite living less than a kilometre away from their chosen secondary.

Cut-off distances of less than 1km

As population growth moves from primary to secondary schools, admissions cut-off distances are shrinking, new figures from the FindASchool website reveal.

The research finds that last year, at least 29 secondaries had cut-off distances of less than 1km. And in the vast majority of these (25), the distance had shrunk since 2014.

At Quarrydale School in Sutton-in-Ashfield, Nottinghamshire, families had to live within 187m of the school in order to secure a place, according to the website.

Lottery admissions systems

Ed Rushton, founder of FindASchool, said that such small distances were more common for primary school admissions but were still “unusual” for secondaries. But he added that he expected the trend to grow unless more schools started adopting lottery admissions systems or gave less priority to siblings or pupils from feeder primaries.

A Deparment for Education spokesperson said: “Despite rising pupil numbers, 95 per cent of parents received an offer at one of their three preferred schools last year.

“The government doubled the funding for school places to £5 billion in the last parliament, which has helped create half a million new school places. A further £7 billion has already been committed to create even more places over the next six years.”


This is an edited version of an article in the 26 February edition of TES. Subscribers can view the full article here. This week’s TES magazine is available in all good newsagents. To download the digital edition, Android users can click here and iOS users can click here

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