Hundreds of parents in London have been left disappointed after missing out on their first choice of Catholic primary school due to heavy oversubscription in some areas.
It is understood that most of the Archdiocese of Westminster’s 156 primaries are oversubscribed, leaving the diocese trying to create extra places in schools to accommodate the numbers.
Parents were informed of the result of their primary school applications last week, with a fifth of all primaries in the country oversubscribed.
Oversubscription in London has been driven by immigration and the popularity of Catholic schools, a majority of which are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted.
Admissions to primaries are overseen by the school’s governors with preference given to practising Catholics and to children with siblings in the school.
Where a school is oversubscribed with practising Catholics, it is normally those who live closest to the school who are given a place. But this can drive up house prices in an area, excluding poorer pupils, and so some schools have decided to adopt a random allocation procedure instead.
Some Catholic primary schools have also in the past given preference to children at an attached nursery, although they have been asked to halt this practice because it breaches the schools admissions code.
Sr Judith Russi, an education adviser to dioceses, said: “We are seeing an ever-increasing demand all over London for Catholic places … As shortage of Catholic places becomes an established trend which translates into a more permanent basic need, then it does challenge the diocese to fulfil their canonical responsibility to provide for a Catholic education.”
She went on: “However, basic need is what has to be established and this is difficult within a city situation. There are clear examples where the demographic make-up of an area has changed drastically in a decade. Oversubscription can be very transitory for a whole host of reasons. What is absolutely essential is that Catholic schools’ admissions policies and practice must be seen to be transparent and legal according to their agreed admissions policy.”