Morgan defends primary places record as catchment areas shrink

Nicky Morgan has defended her record on increasing school places as it emerged that 90 English primaries have been forced to reduce their catchment areas to just 300 metres from their gates.

The education secretary acknowledged there was “demand” for school places, but insisted that more than 400,000 had been created since 2010, with a further 300,000 expected by the end of the decade.

Data from the online service FindASchool shows the smallest catchment area is at Fox Primary School in Notting Hill, west London, at just 92 metres.

The news comes the day before the deadline for parents of four-year-olds to apply for a September 2016 primary school place.

The Times has reported that the average cut-off distance for all oversubscribed primary schools in England is 2.3km (1.4 miles).

However, on FindASchool, 90 schools offered no places for youngsters living outside the 300-metre catchment area.

This included three in Birmingham, three in Manchester, four in Bradford, four in Kent, two in Plymouth, two in Gloucestershire and 39 in London.

Ms Morgan said: “Obviously schools will make their own admissions decisions, but we know there is a demand for school places.

“We are waiting for the application rounds to finish for starting in September 2016 but we have already created over 400,000 new school places since May 2010.

“We have got plans and investment to create another over 300,000 up to the end of this decade and what we know is that parents will think very carefully about their children’s school places.

“All the work we are doing in education is about making sure that there is excellence and great places everywhere and that’s one of the key ways of tackling these issues.”

Ed Rushton, founder of FindASchool, said: “Forty-six per cent of schools in England and two-thirds of schools in Greater London are oversubscribed – all of the schools are filling up, whether good or bad.

“It’s slightly farcical to talk about having a choice. You get what is allocated. Getting your sixth choice is not really a chosen school.”

Thousands of families are expected to miss out on their first-choice place, as in previous years.

The New Schools Network has also released figures which show that many schools had more than three times the number of first preferences as places available.

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