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Education in the media: Saturday 1 September

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Today’s blog looks at a misleading story about the number of school places.

Today, Saturday 1 September, the Daily Mail ran an article based on analysis by claiming that children are being turned away from their local schools due to a lack of school places. The article states that many primary and secondary schools are oversubscribed with catchment areas just a few metres from the school gates.

However, the figures quoted are misleading for several reasons.

Firstly, schools being ‘over-subscribed’ does not equate to a lack of good school places available. This government has driven the largest creation of school places in two generations. In fact since 2010 the government has created 825,000 places across the school system, and the vast majority are in good or outstanding schools. Furthermore, by 2020 this government will have created one million new school places.

Secondly, the term ‘over-subscribed’ is misrepresented. For example, when selecting a school for their child, parents can specify a preference and the data used in this story does not show how many children were given a place at their first choice of school. To only take into account the total number of requests for a place for one school, not broken down by preference, is misleading and will of course skew the data. Our latest admissions data shows that 93.8 per cent of children received offers from one of their top three choice of secondary school last year.

Minister for School Standards Nick Gibb said:

We want to make sure every child has access to a good school place and this has been at the heart of the government reforms since 2010.  We have enabled the creation of hundreds of new free schools, empowered schools to become academies and supported good schools to expand, meaning pupils and their parents now have more choice than ever before. By 2020 this government will have created one million new school places.

Thanks to our reforms and the hard work of teachers, the proportion of good and outstanding schools now make up 86% of the school population.

The latest admission data also shows almost 94% of secondary school applicants got one of their top three choices.  We are investing £23 billion of capital between 2016-21, creating new schools and improving the condition of the schools we have.

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