Race for a Place: How oversubscribed are the schools in your area?

By Claire Miller & Emma Gill

Three quarters of parents didn't get their first choice of a place at one Greater Manchester school this year, but how oversubscribed are the schools near you?

Our Race for a Place data looks at just how popular the region's schools are.

And with parents soon to be choosing high schools for next September, and those with little ones choosing primaries by mid-January, our interactive tool lets you simply enter the name of a school to find out how many people applied for places and how many were successful.

The data from the Department for Education is based on figures from National Offers Day.

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It shows that the hardest secondary to get a place was Stretford Grammar School, in Trafford, where just 28% of those who put it as their first choice secondary secured a place for this September.

Stretford Grammar School (Manchester Evening News)

The school had two first preference applications for each of the 171 places offered - 339 in total. Of those who put the school as their first pick, only 96 were successful.

Sale Grammar School, also in Trafford, was the next hardest secondary to get into locally, with just 32% of those who put it as a first preference getting a place.

There were 2.4 first preferences for the school, a total of 463, for each of its 192 places offered.

Moorgate Primary in Bolton (Manchester Evening News)

Moorgate Primary School, Bolton, was the hardest primary school to secure a place at locally.

The school had 2.6 first preferences for each of the 30 places offered, with just 38% of those who put the school as their first choice getting a place.

Overall, the primary school was put down as a preference 130 times. However, no second or third preferences were successful.

James Brindley Community Primary School, in Walkden, Salford, saw 55 first preferences for 30 places offered - 1.8 per place - with just 53% of parents who put it as a first choice being offered a place.

Michael Mullins, headteacher of Stretford Grammar, said the school is 'fortunate to be part of a very supportive local authority who have helped the school develop and succeed over the last 10 years' and that students are encouraged to 'nurture the very highest of ambitions'.

"At the core of the school, I hope traditional values of politeness, courtesy and respect, underpinned by an opportunity to develop in a kind, caring and wholly inclusive environment, where students are individually known, is integral to why the school is so well supported," he said.

"We encourage students to nurture the very highest of ambitions and go the great lengths to ensure that every student, regardless of need, talent or ability, experiences success. This is what we aspire to as a collective and I hope this is what resonates with the community that we serve."

Moorgate Primary School pupils with headteacher Debbie Hopwood (Manchester Evening News)

At Bolton's Moorgate Primary, headteacher Debbie Hopwood, says the school's motto is 'aspire, achieve and sparkle' and that's 'at the core of everything we do'.

"I think the reason we're so popular is that we're very much a family school and we do call it the Moorgate family," she said.

"We have a very open door policy, we have staff on the yard who are visible and I'm on the yard - we make good relations with our children and families and also in the community."

The single-form entry school has 237 pupils, plus extra provision for two-year-olds and an ASD unit called the Diamonds Hub, for those with autism and special needs.

Mrs Hopwood, who has been head since 2011 and praised the 'fabulous governing body' for their support, said all the staff deliver high quality teaching and it's very much a team effort.

"Here we are a team," she said. "We all invest wholeheartedly in what we do and we're very much of the mind that we look at what we would want for our own children and make sure that applies to children in the school."

A pupil playing at Moorgate Primary in Bolton (Manchester Evening News)

Among the high schools proving tricky to secure a place at is The Blue Coat School in Oldham, where 638 parents put it as their first choice but only 241 spaces were available.

It's the need for more secondary school places which has led to the development of The Brian Clarke CE Academy by the Cranmer Education Trust, the same trust that runs Blue Coat.

With the building still being constructed on the site of a former Sainsbury’s supermarket off Booth Street, the Year 7s starting in September 2022 will initially be taught in temporary accommodation in the grounds of The Blue Coat, before moving to the new site in spring 2023.

And Blue Coat itself is also looking at increasing its intake.

"Prior to the pandemic we were in discussions about how we could expand the Blue Coat campus and improve our facilities so that we could admit more children into Year 7 each year," said Julie Hollis, CEO of the Cranmer Education Trust.

"Now that things appear to be returning towards normal, we will continue to explore this possibility, in the hope that we will be able to support more young people and their families being awarded their first preference school."

The Blue Coat School (STEVE ALLEN)

Responding to its popularity among parents, she said: "The data on successful first choices reflects Blue Coat being a very successful, Ofsted outstanding and therefore popular school over a long period of time.

"The school is oversubscribed at a rate of nearly six applications for every available place. This means far more parents are applying to Blue Coat than would ever be able to be accepted.

"This success is a result of the combination of great teaching, pastoral care, opportunities and excellence for young people, all underpinned by a strong ethos about what it means to be a good person in a community, where we all respect and support one another.

"These are the hallmarks of a Cranmer Education Trust school, of which The Blue Coat School is just one from growing family of schools."

The Blue Coat School (STEVE ALLEN)

Mrs Hollis added: "The data also reflects the year-on-year increasing numbers of young people coming into secondary phase of education, which further increases the pressure on places at popular schools.

"The need for more secondary school places led Oldham Council to ask Trusts to bid to open a new school and we were delighted they chose us.

"The massive oversubscription at Blue Coat shows that it is the sort of school parents want. The Brian Clarke CofE Academy will mean that the Cranmer Education Trust can offer a Blue Coat style education to another 240 children every year."

If you want to know how many applications there were for a place at a school in your area, you can use our interactive tool below to explore how successful people applying were this September.

[Schools with lowest proportion of successful first preferences]


School name // Type // LA // total number of places offered // number of 1st preferences // % 1st pref // 1st preferences to places // all preferences // All preferences to places


Stretford Grammar School // Secondary // Trafford // 171 // 339 // 28.3 // 2 // 1610 // 9.4
Sale Grammar School // Secondary // Trafford // 192 // 463 // 31.5 // 2.4 // 1953 // 10.2
Urmston Grammar Academy // Secondary // Trafford // 151 // 371 // 34.8 // 2.5 // 1424 // 9.4
The Blue Coat CofE School // Secondary // Oldham // 241 // 638 // 37 // 2.6 // 1460 // 6.1
Moorgate Primary School // Primary // Bolton // 30 // 79 // 38 // 2.6 // 130 // 4.3
William Hulme's Grammar School // Secondary // Manchester // 178 // 356 // 40.2 // 2 // 1020 // 5.7
Altrincham Grammar School for Boys // Secondary // Trafford // 215 // 512 // 41.2 // 2.4 // 856 // 4
Altrincham Grammar School for Girls // Secondary // Trafford // 207 // 482 // 41.9 // 2.3 // 887 // 4.3
Saint Ambrose College // Secondary // Trafford // 146 // 206 // 45.6 // 1.4 // 485 // 3.3
Eden Boys' School Bolton // Secondary // Bolton // 124 // 262 // 46.9 // 2.1 // 385 // 3.1


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