Nearly all councils in England have reported a fall in applications for primary school places, according to a survey by the Press Association.
Its survey of 71 councils found that 63 had seen a drop in applications for primary school places while just eight had seen a rise.
London’s boroughs had a 7 per cent fall in applications for reception class places in September, while Birmingham had 9 per cent fewer applications compared with 2020. Councils in the south east of England, including Essex, Kent, and Brighton & Hove, reported declines of 2 per cent or more.
Some councils said some of the fall was because parents simply missed the deadline for applications on 15 January, when schools were closed to most pupils and the post-Christmas wave of COVID-19 infections was rising.
The pandemic prevented schools and councils from carrying out traditional marketing, such as open days.
Others said the falling birth rate and migration after Brexit may also be behind the decline. The fall in demand meant less pressure for places in popular schools, with most parts of the country reporting a rise in the proportion of families given places at their first preference.
Baroness Blake, Chair of the LGA’s Children and Young People Board, said: “Choosing the right school for your child is one of the most important things a parent will do and this time of year can be extremely stressful.
“Every child should have a fair chance of getting into their parents’ preferred school and councils and schools work extremely hard to try to ensure that as many pupils as possible are allocated their first preference.”