An expected surge in pupils applying for state secondary school places has failed to materialise in London, Manchester and other parts of England, allowing more families to gain their first choice of schools.
The number of applications for year 7 places in London fell by 1% compared with last year, despite the baby boom of a decade earlier, suggesting that population movements after the Covid pandemic and Brexit remain unsettled.
Applications in Kent, Essex Leeds, Sheffield and Manchester were little changed.
Other parts of England did see strong increases in demand for places in September, including Birmingham, Cornwall (both up 8%) and Oxfordshire (up 5%).
Councils had been braced for an influx of applications as the children of the baby boom of 2010-11 come to the end of primary school this summer and will transfer to secondary schools in autumn.
But the pan-London admissions authority, which allocates school places for 32 local authorities, said applications fell from 93,722 last year to 92,672.
The authority said applications were affected by “the longer-term impacts of the pandemic, such as families moving due to changes in their circumstances and working patterns, along with the localised effect of the UK leaving the EU in some areas.”
Damian White, London Councils’s chair of schools and children’s services, said: “While the total number of secondary school applications received in London this year was slightly lower than last year, pressure on different schools and local authority areas can vary.
“We will be keeping an eye on birthrates and patterns of population growth so that local authorities can continue to ensure that there are sufficient school places for every child that needs one.”
Nearly 70% of London applicants received their first preference of school, compared with 66% in 2021. But there were variations between boroughs, with just 60% of families in Kensington and Chelsea getting their first choice, compared with 78% in Waltham Forest and 81% in Havering.