Almost half of those choosing Essex’s most oversubscribed non-selective secondary school as a first preference failed to get a place, figures have revealed.

As many as 45.8 per cent of first-choice applicants for the De La Salle School in Basildon were unsuccessful in securing a place at the school, according to recent Government data.

Of the 218 applicants who put De La Salle down as a first-place preference starting in September 2023, only 118 were offered a place. Altogether 140 places were up for grabs. There were 12 second-place preference offers and eight third-place preference offers.

Its latest Progress 8 score based on 2022 results showing how much progress pupils had made across 8 qualifications between the end of key stage 2 and the end of key stage 4 is -0.12. The local authority’s average score for state-funded schools is -0.21.

The average score for all state-funded schools in England is -0.03. Its Attainment 8, which measures how well pupils have performed in up to eight qualifications, including English and maths, scored 46.3. That is compared to the average score for England’s state-funded schools of 48.8. The Essex average is 47.9.

The Ofsted report, which rated it as Good at the last inspection in 2018 said: “The quality of teaching, learning and assessment is good. Consequently, most pupils, including disadvantaged pupils, make strong progress in a range of subjects, including English and mathematics.”

The second most popular in Essex and the most popular in Brentwood was Becket Keys Church of England Free School where just 57 per cent of first-place preferences were successfully awarded. That’s even fewer than the 69.6 per cent awarded last year.

Of the 291 applicants who put Becket Keys down as a first-place preference, only 140 were offered a place. There were eight second-place preference offers and two third-place preference offers. Altogether the school offered 190 places for a September 2023 start.

Becket Keys was rated outstanding in its last inspection in 2014. Its 2022’s Attainment 8 score was 56.4. Its Progress 8 score is 0.35.

The report from Ofsted said: “High aspiration is embedded across the school. Work is suitably challenging and students are expected to write at length. They understand what they need to do and how to improve their work because the marking of their books is of a high quality.”

The third most popular school was Woodland School also in Basildon where just 59 per cent of first-place preferences were successful.

Of the 446 applicants who put that school down as a first-place preference, only 264 were offered a place. There were 20 second-place preference offers and six third-place preference offers. Altogether 293 youngsters were offered a place starting September 2023 Its Progress 8 score is -0.11. Its Attainment 8 score is 46.2. Its Ofsted inspection in November 2023 rated it Good with its  “high expectations” on pupils pushing them to succeed.

“Teachers have high expectations of pupils’ behaviour. Clear routines for behaviour have been established. These are helping pupils to behave well in lessons and maximise learning time,” it said.

St Benedict’s Catholic College in Colchester was the hardest non-selective school to get into in Colchester – just 65 per cent of first-place preferences were successful. Its Attainment 8 score stands at 54.5 and its Progress 8 score at 0.3.

Moulsham High School was the most popular in Chelmsford with 75 per cent of first-place preferences successful. At Saffron Walden County High School 80 per cent of first-place preferences were successful. The most popular in Harlow was St Mark’s West Essex Catholic School where 97 per cent of applicants putting down the school as a first preference were awarded a place.

Of the 80 secondary schools in Essex just 28 had to reject 10 per cent or more of the first-place preferences. In 31 schools every first-place preference was accepted.

The four selective grammar schools – King Edward VI Grammar School, Chelmsford, Colchester Royal Grammar School, Chelmsford County High School for Girls, and Colchester County High School for Girls were most popular in Essex.