Thousands of Northamptonshire children have missed out on a place at their preferred secondary school this September, figures show.
School leaders warned that pressure on secondary schools is likely to intensify in the coming years, after the proportion of families in England having to settle for another school increased for the fourth year in a row.
Department for Education data shows 6,764 of the 8,792 secondary school applicants in Northamptonshire have received an offer for their first-choice school for the coming academic year – a rate of 77%.
This was an improvement on the previous year, when it was 76%, but lower than the 85% achieved five years earlier.
A further 13% of this year’s applicants got their second choice and 4% their third choice.
Overall, this means 94% got one of their top three preferences, above the national average of 93%.
However, 533 pupils – 6% of the total – didn’t get any of their preferred schools , while seven children got no offer at all.
Parents can choose up to three schools, but don’t have to fill out all the options.
Across England, 81% of applicants got into their first-choice school this year, down from 82% the previous year.
The Department for Education said the rate was evidence of continuing success in the face of rising pupil numbers.
In Northamptonshire, applications have increased by 6% over the last year, and by 30% since 2014.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said pressure was likely to increase on schools over the next five years, with the number of secondary school pupils across England expected to rise by another 376,000.
“Additional school places will need to be planned carefully to match demographic need, but this is only one part of the picture,” he said.
“We must ensure every family is able to access a place in a good local school wherever they live, and that they don’t feel the need to chase places in oversubscribed schools.
“The vital ingredients for success are more support for struggling schools, improved funding from the Government, and more action to tackle the teacher recruitment and retention crisis.”
School Standards Minister Nick Gibb said: “Wherever they live and whatever their background, children deserve the best in education.
“Since 2010 we have created more school places and seen school standards rise, meaning there is a greater opportunity for pupils across the country to go to a good or outstanding school.
“Our school system has improved beyond recognition in the last nine years, which means that even the small minority of parents who didn’t get one of their top choices this year can feel confident their child will still get a world-leading education.”