The pressure on state school places in England has spread from primary schools to secondaries, with official figures showing it is getting harder for pupils to get their top choice of schools.
Figures from local authorities show that applications for secondary school places this year reached their highest since 2009, as the first cohorts of the recent baby boom begin to finish their primary education and move up.
The increase saw the proportion of applicants being offered their first preference dropping from 85% to 84% in the space of a year, to the lowest levels since 2010.
About 20,000 pupils, nearly 4% of applicants, failed to receive an offer from any of their named choices for the new school year starting in September.
While much attention has been on creating additional primary school places, council leaders have warned that local authorities struggle to create new secondary school places because of government policy restricting new schools to being academies or free schools.
David Simmonds, chair of the Local Government Association’s children and young people board, said: “Councils face a challenge creating places on time and in the right places when their hands are tied by red tape and they are short of money to do so.”
Families in London were the worst hit by oversubscription, as fewer than seven out of every 10 applicants gained a place at their first choice of secondary school.
Places were even harder to come by in some inner London authorities such as Hammersmith & Fulham, Westminster and Wandsworth, where fewer than 60% of first preferences were filled.