Sunderland children given their primary school spots

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THOUSANDS of Wearside parents have now been told which primary school their four-year-olds will attend this September.

It is the first time that families across the country have found out at the same time which school they have been allocated on the primary National Offer Day yesterday.

Education bosses at Sunderland City Council were still compiling the figures, but it was hoped that last year’s trend of most parents getting their first choice would continue.

In Durham 92 per cent were offered their first choice, down from 94 per cent last year when there were 81 fewer applicants.

Some 97.5 per cent of youngsters got one of their top three choices of primary school places in 2014, down from 98.1 per cent last year.

Sunderland’s Conservative education spokesman Robert Oliver said that historically the majority of the city’s parents have got their first choice for their children. “I think it is really important because there should be choice in school, both so that parents can choose the best-performing school for their children, but also so they can have the convenience as to how close it is to where they live and where siblings can attend the same school,” he told the Echo.

“Of course every school should be of a good standard, but in Sunderland that’s more of a problem in secondary schools than in primary schools.”

But the picture elsewhere in the country is looking less positive, with early figures from some councils suggesting that tens of thousands of four-year-olds could miss out on their first-choice place this year.

That means that up to one in three are predicted to lose out in some areas, particularly in major cities that are facing a shortage of places. Councils and schools have been facing an increasing squeeze on school places, particularly for primary-age children, partly fuelled by a rising birth rate in recent years and the impact of immigration.

With competition for primary places increasingly high, research has found that parents are taking decisive action to ensure their children get the best opportunities - often before they are of school age or even born.

The survey, conducted by parenting website Netmums, which questioned more than 1,000 people in March, found that 46 per cent said they had put their child into a nursery linked to the school to help improve their chances of getting a place, with another 44 per cent said they found the process of applying for a primary school place stressful.

Netmums founder Siobhan Freegard said: “Competition for what parents perceive to be the best schools is now so tough they will do almost anything to gain their child a place.”