Secondary school places: where in England are pupils least likely to get into first-preference school?

One in six kids will not be going to their first choice school in September - search for your area to see how competitive the application process is

With the new academic year beginning next month, pupils across England will be making the move from primary to secondary school. However, almost two in five children will not be going to their first preference secondary school.

The latest government figures reveal 83% of secondary pupils gained a place at their first preference secondary school for the 2022/23 academic year.

Across England, there were more than 614,000 applications received with 511,226 pupils gaining their first secondary school preference.

But 102,833 children moving into secondary school did not get their first preference school for the upcoming academic year.

These figures also show that the 2022/2023 entry is the highest number of applications recorded since the time series from the Department of Education began in 2014.

How likely is your child able to get their first preference secondary school? 

The likelihood is based on the latest figures from the Department of Education, for the academic year beginning in September.

Generally, the areas most likely to give your child a place at their first secondary school preference are outside London.

The top 10 places where secondary school children are more likely to get their preference are:

  • Central Bedfordshire: where 98% of applications got their first preference. 
  • East Riding of Yorkshire: 97% of applications got their first preference.
  • Rutland: 97% of applications got their first preference.
  • Dorset: 96% of applications got their first preference.
  • Wiltshire: 95% of applications got their first preference.
  • Northumberland: 95% of applications got their first preference.
  • Hartlepool: 95% of applications got their first preference.
  • Suffolk: 95% of applications got their first preference.
  • Somerset: 94% of applications got their first preference.
  • Cumbria: 94% of applications got their first preference.

However, there are areas, mostly in London, where the percentage of children getting their first secondary choice preference was far lower.

Top 10 places where secondary school children are least likely to get their preference are:

  • Kensington and Chelsea: 61% of applications got their first preference.
  • Lewisham: 62% of applications got their first preference.
  • Hammersmith and Fulham: 62% of applications got their first preference.
  • Lambeth: 64% of applications got their first preference.
  • Richmond upon Thames: 64% of applications got their first preference.
  • Slough: 64% of applications got their first preference.
  • Greenwich: 65% of applications got their first preference.
  • Wandsworth: 65% of applications got their first preference.
  • Croydon: 65% of applications got their first preference.
  • Redbridge: 65% of applications got their first preference.

How likely is your child able to get their first secondary school preference?

NationalWorld has created a searchable table where you can search for your area and compare it to areas nearby, to see how likely your child can get their first preference for secondary school.

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Can’t see the table? Click here to open it in a new window.

The table shows the percentage of first preference offers given in each authority, as well as how many applications were received and how many offers were given.

How do these numbers compare to last year? 

For the 2021/2022 academic year, the proportion of children getting into their first preference secondary school was lower, at 81%. There were fewer applications too, with 605,200 applications sent in, compared to 614,000 this year.

From the applications sent in, only 490,965 children got a space at their first secondary school preference.

The areas that had the lowest rate in 2021/22 were:

  • Slough, with 56% of first applications offers. 
  • Hammersmith and Fulham, with 57%
  • Richmond upon Thames, with 60%
  • Greenwich, with 60%
  • Wandsworth, with 60%
  • Croydon, with 61%
  • Lambeth, with 61%
  • Lewisham, with 62%
  • Merton, with 63%
  • Buckinghamshire, with 63%

The areas with the highest were:

  • Northumberland, with 98% of first applications offers.
  • Barnsley, with 97%
  • East Riding of Yorkshire, with 97%
  • St Helens, with 96%
  • North Somerset, with 96%
  • Dorset, with 96%
  • North Lincolnshire, with 96%
  • Wakefield, with 96%
  • Cornwall, with 95%
  • Cumbria, with 95%