600,352 applications were received for a place at secondary school in 2020, a 0.7% decrease on 2019.
This contrasts to a 3.7% increase in the number of applications between 2018 and 2019.
This is the first year on year drop since 2013, when the rise in births which began in the previous decade started to reach secondary school age.
The proportion of secondary applicants receiving an offer of their first choice school has increased to 82.2% - up from 80.9% in 2019.
The proportion of applicants who received an offer of any of their preferred secondary schools also increased to 95.6% in 2020 (from 94.8%).
A timeseries of key results from 2014 are provided in the following table.
Secondary geographical variation
At local authority level the three highest first preference rates were achieved in 2020 by:
- Northumberland (97.3%)
- Central Bedfordshire (96.8%)
- Dorset (96.3%)
Northumberland has been the top performer in this measure for the last five years. Central Bedfordshire is now the only local authority who submit secondary data for year 9 as their largest secondary intake.
As in previous years, the lowest first preference rates at secondary level are all in London:
- Hammersmith and Fulham (52.8%)
- Lambeth (59.8%)
- Richmond upon Thames (60.7%)
The only non-London local authority in the bottom ten was:
- Slough (63.3%)
The higher number of practical options available to London applicants and ability to name six preferences may encourage parents to make more speculative choices for their top preferences.
As expected, there is much less variation in the proportions receiving any preferred offer compared to those for receiving a first preference.
Secondary cross local authority offers
An applicant can apply to their local authority for any school, including those situated in another local authority.
In 2020 92.0% of secondary offers made were of schools inside the home authority. This figure has been stable for the past few years.
 Results omit City of London which has a particularly small number of applicants and no secondary schools