A SECONDARY school in Basildon is the hardest to get into in Essex with almost half of first-choice applicants unsuccessful, it has been revealed.

As many as 45.6 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 261 applicants who put De La Salle down as a first-place preference starting in September 2024, only 142 were offered a place. Altogether 149 places were up for grabs. There were 5 second-place preference offers and 1 third-place preference offers.

The school was also last year’s most heavily subscribed secondary school when as many as 45.8 per cent of first-choice applicants were unsuccessful in securing a place at the school.

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 was Woodlands School also in Basildon where just 58.5 per cent of first-place preferences were successfully awarded. It is about the same figures as last year.

Of the 439 applicants who put it down as a first-place preference, only 257 were offered a place. There were 26 second-place preference offers and 6 third-place preference offers. Altogether the school offered 299 places for a September 2024 start.

The third most popular was Becket Keys Church of England Free School in Brentwood where just 61 per cent of first-place preferences were successfully awarded.

Of the 273 applicants who put it down as a first-place preference, only 166 were offered a place.

Becket Keys was rated outstanding in its last inspection in 2014.

Great Baddow High School was the fourth hardest in Essex to get into and the most popular in Chelmsford. There 362 put it down as a first choice but of them only 227 were offered a place.

The biggest change in popularity was found at Beaulieu Park School in Chelmsford which is the main school for people living in the growing Beaulieu Park estate that when complete will comprise 3,600 homes, two primary schools and a secondary school Beaulieu Park School secondary, which opened in 2019, is now the fifth most popular in Essex – a marked difference from last year when it was just the 28th most popular in the county.

This year there were 238 first choice preferences for the school – and of those 150 were offered a place equivalent to 63 per cent. Last year 88 per cent of first choices were successful.

The Beaulieu Park School is currently graded as Outstanding in all areas following an Ofsted inspection last year.

The report said: “Pupils work extremely well in their lessons. Pupils of all ages love learning and are excited by their subjects. Standards of behaviour are very high. Pupils are taught to concentrate and participate in class. They show high levels of respect for each other and the adults.”

Almost 93 per cent of children were offered their parents’ first or second preference of secondary school.

The total number of applications for September 2024 admissions, 17,039, is the highest number Essex County Council has ever received.

Of these, just under 97 per cent, which is equivalent to more than 19 out of every 20 children, are being offered one of their named preferences of secondary school.

A total of 84.14 per cent of children are being offered their parents’ first preference this year. A further 8.65 per cent have been offered their second preference, meaning almost 93 per cent (92.79 per cent) have been offered either their first or second preference.

Tony Ball, Essex County Council councillor responsible for education excellence, lifelong learning and employability, said: “I am really pleased to see that, once again, we have been able to offer so many pupils their parents’ preferred secondary school place this year.

“Starting secondary school is a hugely important milestone in a child’s life and I hope those embarking on this exciting next step enjoy their last few months at primary and junior school before starting their next academic adventure.”

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.