Primary school places: Deadline day arrives as thousands expected to lose out

Thousands of parents face their children missing out on the primary school of their choice as the deadline for applications arrives, with the government urged to take action to create more places.

It comes as Labour warns more than half a million children are now in "super size" classes of over 30 pupils amid a shortage of places, and local authorities say they need greater power to help create availability for children.

It has also emerged that 90 English primaries had been forced to reduce their catchment areas to just 300 metres from their gates, while, according to research, as many as four in 10 children could miss out on their first-choice primary school this year.

Friday is the final day parents with four-year-old children can apply for a September 2016 place.

Children taught in 'super size' classes

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan accepts there is 'demand' for places. Credit: PA

Labour claims that 520,000 primary school children are now being taught in "super size" classes of more than 30 pupils, claiming the government's "obsession" with free schools - semi-independent schools run by parents or other groups - had made it harder to ensure places for primary school children around the country.

Under the 2010 Academies Act, the government passed measures ensuring that all new schools must be free schools or academies - a move Labour claims has led to further problems.

The Local Government Association (LGA) also said that councils must be given the powers to open new schools or force academies to expand in order to meet the demand for school places.

The National Association of Head Teachers (NAHT) added that the current system risked harming children's education and "over-stretching capacity" could see teaching standards suffer.

Education Secretary Nicky Morgan recently acknowledged "demand" for places but said more than 400,000 had been created by 2010 and 300,000 were planned to become available by the end of the decade.

Some schools have four-minute catchment area

On the website FindASchool, 90 schools offer no places for children outside of a 300-metre catchment area - meaning a maximum walk of around four minutes.

According to the Times, the average cut-off distance for all oversubscribed primary schools in England is 1.4 miles.

Ed Rushton, founder of the website - which allows parents to find information about schools in the area - told the newspaper the situation was "farcical".

Figures from The New Schools Network also released figures showing many schools had more than three times the number of first preferences than places available.

How to apply

  • Go to your council's website, or if you don't know, it type your postcode on the government's primary schools website

  • Choose the schools you wish to apply to, ordered by preference

  • Paper application forms are available from local authorities and many primary schools and nurseries if preferred