More London families secure first choice primary school as application numbers drop amid pandemic

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More London families secured a place at their first choice of primary school this year amid the Covid-19 pandemic, figures show.

London primary schools received 90,807 applications this year – a 7% fall on last year, according to data published by the Pan London Admissions Board.

The disruption caused by Covid-19 may have led to families missing the application deadline, the admissions organisation suggested.

But the drop in application numbers may have been affected by longer term impacts of the pandemic, such as families moving out of the city due to changes in their circumstances and working patterns, it added.

A decreasing birth rate and the localised effect of the UK leaving the EU in some areas may have had an impact on the number of applications, the organisation said.

Across London’s 33 boroughs, 87% of families were given their first choice of primary school this year, compared with 85% in 2020, the figures show.

More than one in eight (13%) children who applied to start at a London primary school this autumn missed out on their first choice.

But a breakdown by London borough shows significant differences, with a third of youngsters missing out in some places.

Kensington and Chelsea had the lowest proportion of children getting their top choice at 66.4%. In Camden 77.8% secured their first preference.

Barking and Dagenham had the highest proportion of first preferences at 94.4%, followed by Newham at 93.1%.

Martin Pratt, spokesman for the Pan London Admissions Board, said: “This year the admissions process has gone smoothly and nearly 89,000 parents will receive an offer of a preferred school place in the capital – with 79,000 of those being for their first preference school.

“The significant reduction in total applications is due to a range of reasons, including short and long-term effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

“Boroughs are supporting schools to deal with this challenge and ensure school places continue to be available where there is demand.

“Clearly it is important that councils have the powers and flexibility to meet the needs of our youngest residents. Each London borough has an admissions team and we are ready to help parents if they have any queries.”