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School place wait 'tough as birth'
Waiting to hear which school your child will attend is as tough as giving birth, it has been suggested.
Parents are under "severe stress" for weeks while waiting to find out if they have secured a place at their first choice, according to Siobhan Freegard, co-founder of the Netmums website.
Children across the country will learn this week if they have won a place at their family's first choice of secondary school. Letters will be arriving on the doorsteps of hundreds of thousands of families on Friday, on what is known as National Offer Day.
But tens of thousands of youngsters are likely to miss out on their top pick. Last year, around one in six 11-year-olds in England did not get into their chosen school, according to official figures.
Ms Freegard said that waiting for news of a school place is a stressful time for families. "If you think getting pregnant or giving birth is tough, then wait until you experience school admissions day," she said. "Tens of thousands of parents are under severe stress for weeks before wondering if their child has been awarded their first choice of school."
For those who get their top choice, it is a "huge relief", Ms Freegard said, but for those who miss out it is devastating.
Some will launch appeals in an attempt to overturn the decision, she suggested. And some parents will be willing to resort to "underhand tactics" in a bid to secure a coveted place at a particular school. "On Netmums we have seen reports of families paying out thousands of pounds to rent a property next to their choice of school only to move out of the catchment area as soon as they have been offered a place," she said.
"Others have registered themselves as living at a friend or relative's home closer to the school to get in. Some families who have lived in areas for generations also report feeling pushed out as parents with deeper pockets and bigger budgets move in and buy up homes closer to good schools."
Figures published by the Department for Education showed that 14.7% of 11-year-olds in England did not get a place at their first choice secondary school last year. And 4.1% did not receive an offer from one of their top three preferred schools.
A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "All parents should be able to send their child to a good local school. That's why we are creating more good school places by turning around failing schools, allowing good schools to expand and setting up free schools which are hugely popular with parents."