1. ITV Report

Parents Find Out School Places

Anxious families across the region are finding out whether or not their children have won places at the secondary schools of their choice.

Thousands are already receiving the news online - while others will have to wait for envelopes to arrive in the post tomorrow.

For several of the authorities in the Meridian patch it's been a record breaking year. In Hampshire more than 95 per cent of 11 year olds secured places at their number one choice of school - up two per cent on last year. In Brighton and Hove, just over 81 per cent were allocated places at their preferred school - and in Kent just under 83 per cent were successful.

But in Southend on Sea only 66.5 per cent achieved places at the schools of their choice - even less than last year. One in ten children here weren't given ANY of their three choices.

While many schools in the region are greatly oversubscribed, others are struggling to fill their classrooms - and it seems that exam results are driving popularity.

Kings School in Winchester was the most oversubscribed school in Hampshire followed by the Wavell School and Thornden in Chandler's Ford - Thornden has the top GCSE results in the county.

Hampshire's Cabinet member for education and deputy leader Cllr Roy Perry said: "We're absolutely delighted that we've been able to offer so many young people the schools they wanted.

"There are some outstanding schools and they are inevitably oversubscribed. There are some schools that are less popular so the governors, the head teachers and ourselves need to say why is this school not quite as popular as others down the road - let's address the issues and make these schools ones that anyone would be happy to go to."

"Exam results are crucial but there is an awful lot more that a good school offers. "

At the Roman Catholic St Peter's School at Guildford in Surrey there are four applicants for every place. Some 400 children will be finding out in the next 24 hours or so that they haven't won a place there.

Headteacher Robert Guinea said: "For those who are successful it's a really good day today. For those who are unsuccessful it's the beginning of several months of really quite difficult decision making. "

The Westlands School in Sittingbourne is in the top four per cent of schools in the country for the progress that pupils make there between Years 7 and 11. The school has expanded its pupils intake to 285 to try and cope with extra demand.

Trust Principal Jon Whitcombe said: "All of us would like to see parents get their first choice but we have to recognise that that's not always going to be possible. There is an appeals process and it is a genuinely independent process over which schools have no control."

Improving schools saw their applications rise significantly - particularly many academies. Three years ago Skinners Kent Academy in Tunbridge Wells had 140 unfilled places - last year it had 60. And this year things have improved again.

Principal Sian Carr said: " Our exam results have improved immeasurably. We are no longer third, fourth, fifth choice of school - we have increased the number of people who are choosing us as their first choice by 100 per cent this year." Southampton City Council says its secondary schools are becoming more popular as facilities and performance improve. The Oasis

Academy Mayfield is the city's most improved school - and it has just opened a brand new 14 million pound building. Yet more than 100 of the pupils who will start here in September didn't put it as their first choice.

Principal John Toland said: "Parents do and should vote with their feet. More and more families are choosing us because they see what we have to offer. The young people are the best advertisement for the work that we are doing here."

Year 10 pupil Ben Bevis said: "The school is getting better all the time - pupils are going to be fighting to get here in the future. This will be amazing this school - it's going to be so successful. "

More on this story