Nervous parents are finding out which primary school their children will be going to in September, as many get their first choice while others miss out on their dream school.
Early indications from a Press Association survey suggest a lower proportion of children across England are gaining places at their first choice school this year.
It also suggests that local authorities have seen a slight rise in the number of applications.
At least 86% of youngsters are gaining their top preferences, with the figure rising as high as 98% in some areas.
Of the 45 authorities that replied to a Press Association survey, there were 191,427 applications for primary school places, up from 191,154 last year.
About 175,000 (91%) gained places at their first-choice, down from 92% last year.
A further 5% secured their second choice, while 1% got their third choice.
More than 4,000 children (2%) missed out on a place at any of their top three schools.
Northumberland County Council reported that 98% of applications had gained an offer from their most desired school.
By contrast the figure from Liverpool City Council was only 87%.
Liverpool also reported one in 20 children (5%) missing out on all of their top three choices.
Separate figures collected by London Councils – the local government association for Greater London – show that 86% of this year’s 96,598 applicants in the capital secured their first-choice, lower than the 91% across the 45 authorities in the PA survey.
London’s most competitive borough was Kensington & Chelsea, where only 66% of children bagged a place at their first choice primary school.
The boroughs where the highest proportion got their preferred school were Barking & Dagenham (95%) and Newham (94%).
Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, which represents the majority of primary school leaders in England and Wales, said: “This can be an anxious time for families. Choosing the right primary school and securing a place there can feel like a battle for parents.
“The problem is that in an increasingly fragmented school system we lack a co-ordinated approach to place planning. Local authorities are responsible for ensuring sufficient school places, but the powers and resources necessary for them to do so have been removed.
“Until the Government creates a national strategy to guarantee there are enough school places for every child in England, the annual anxious wait for families will continue.”
Sara Williams, chairwoman of the Pan London Admissions Board, said: “In London 94% of schools are rated good or outstanding by Ofsted, which makes it very likely that parents will receive a high quality school place offer for their child.
“While the total number of primary school applications received in London this year was slightly lower than last year, pressure on different schools and local authority areas can vary.
“We will be keeping an eye on birth rates and patterns of population growth, but we expect demand for primary school places to continue at least at current levels and demand for secondary school places to grow considerably in the years ahead.”