Record numbers at first choice school

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SHEFFIELD pupils are going back to school over the next few days - with record numbers starting classes at the secondaries of their first choice.

This year 94 per cent of youngsters have been given places at their families’ first choice secondary, up five per cent on 2010.

And at the city’s primaries 92 per cent of children are at their parents’ favoured school, up from 91 last year.

The figures mean that the number of appeals against the council’s allocation system has fallen this year, with the cases of 270 families heard by independent panels.

In some previous years the total has been over 400.

With all the hearings now complete, 27 per cent of primary appeals have been successful, compared to 34 per cent in the secondary sector.

That figure is comparable with recent years where around a third of all appeals have been upheld.

A council spokesman said: “One of the contributing factors to fewer appeals for secondary schools this year is the current dip in the birth rate which means that there are more places available in the system.

“This has enabled us to meet a higher number of preferences which has the knock-on effect of fewer appeals being submitted to the independent appeal panel.”

The Department for Education has still to ratify the appeals decisions, which it is expected to do later this month.

Sheffield’s newest secondary school will be full to capacity when it opens on Tuesday – with more than 30 pupils turned away.

Forge Valley School in Stannington has been created due to the controversial merger of Myers Grove and Wisewood schools, which was bitterly opposed for years by campaign groups.

But parents in the area have chosen to send their youngsters there, with all 210 Year 7 places filled and 36 pupils unable to get in.

Education chiefs believe the appeal of a new school plus the fact it will have a sixth form attracted applications from outside its catchment.

Pressure on the secondary system has been eased slightly this year with the creation of 60 places at Fir Vale School, to cater for a growing population in the area. In the past the former Earl Marshal School has been heavily oversubscribed, but this year just seven pupils have failed to gain places.

Sheffield’s primaries meanwhile are coping successfully with a city-wide baby boom which has seen education chiefs order the expansion of 11 primaries around the city.

An extra 255 places have been created for the new academic year costing £14 million, the cash coming from Government coffers.

More than 6,100 new infant pupils will be starting school over the next few days, with that number having risen sharply over the past six years, up from 5,200 in 2005.