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Demand for places fuels shortage in cityschools.

Byline: Graham Henry Senedd Correspondent graham.henry@walesonline.co.uk

HUGE variation in demand for school places has seen several Cardiff schools face a shortfall of places - while the bulk of schools in other areas of South Wales have surpluses, analysis of new figures has revealed.

Freedom of Information requests to councils showed five of eight secondary schools in Cardiff - and 57 of 74 of the capital's primary schools - had more applications to process than places available for the 2014-2015 academic year, with Cardiff High receiving nearly three applications for each spot it had.

By contrast, all eight high schools in the Bridgend area where there was information were under-subscribed, as were two of three secondary schools in Merthyr Tydfil and five of six secondary schools analysed in the Vale of Glamorgan.

Cardiff High had the biggest gulf between the number of applications and places available, with 669 wanting just 240 available slots - meaning there were 2.8 applications for every place.

Several Cardiff primary schools were also dealing with a surge in applications, with Bryn Deri and Rhydypenau both receiving more than three times the available places.

Llanishen High also had to whittle 496 applications down to just 268 places, while Radyr received 373 applications for just 210 places. Fitzalan High, Cathays High, Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Plasmawr, Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Glantaf and Eastern High all saw applications outstrip available places.

Meanwhile, five schools made up of Michaelston, Cantonian High, Ysgol Gyfun Gymraeg Bro Edern, Willows High and Glyn Derw High faced a shortfall in applications compared to available places.

Only Cyfarthfa High in Merthyr and Cowbridge in the Vale saw narrow oversubscriptions to their places available, out of 17 non-Cardiff schools analysed. The information came to light through FOI requests to South Wales councils, gleaned from a system of asking parents to list a number of schools in order of preference on their form.

Schools and local authorities then rank applications in order of how well they fit the over-subscription criteria, which includes whether the child has siblings at the school, their religion and distance from their home.

Dr Philip Dixon, director of education union ATL Cymru, said: "These figures are interesting on several levels. They show that school-age population is expanding quickly in some areas while contracting in others.

"This is yet another reason why planning for schools cannot be left to local authorities alone. A big picture needs to be considered as we decide where to spend increasingly scarce resources.

"The figures also show that within authorities, particularly Cardiff, parents are scrambling for places at what they consider are the better schools. Often that judgment is based purely on raw results rather than a broader analysis which can show that some schools are far more effective than many think. "The city needs to work at improving all its schools so that any of them is the sort of school parents are happy for their child to attend. The work of Schools Challenge Cymru will be key in that journey."

Tomorrow: Primary |school figures

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Publication:South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUK
Date:Oct 27, 2014
Words:506
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