A HEADTEACHER has said a lack of funding forced his secondary school to turn away more than 200 pupils.

Cherwell Secondary School in Summertown had a total of 471 pupils who listed the academy for September’s 270 capacity Year Seven as their first choice.

But headteacher Paul James said the school, which has 1,900, had to turn away pupils because an application for about £7 million of funding to increase capacity and improve maintenance was turned down.

Mr James said the academy applied for the money because assembly halls, dining rooms, performance rooms and exam rooms were at full capacity and needed expanding to meet growing demand.

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The headteacher, who said 100 of the pupils turned down lived in the school’s catchment areas, added: “We are over subscribed.

“A hundred children within the school’s catchment area have not been offered a place when normally it is 30 or 40.

“There are messages from the Government about about wanting schools to expand and then to have this turned down is frustrating.

“But we will try again.

“What is unusual is the number of children who live close to the school and can’t get a place.”

“We want to avoid this, but it is beyond our control.”

Oxfordshire County Council said almost 91 per cent of children were given a place at their first choice secondary school compared to 90.8 per cent last year.

Cabinet member for children, education and families Melinda Tilley said: “The county council has consistently had a strong record of ensuring a high percentage of children can attend their first-preference secondary school.

“Inevitably, where applications for particular schools exceed available spaces, we can’t offer everyone a place.”

But County Councillor John Tanner, who represents the Isis ward, said: “Most Year Six children in my area have been refused their first choice.

“Some even failed to get their second or third choices as well.

“In this part of Oxford the idea of parental or pupil choice is a bit of a joke. “ A spokesman from the Department for Education said of funding: “We have to prioritise the bids we receive.

We won’t discuss any bids.”

Earlier this month the Oxford Mail revealed that Cherwell School had asked parents to contribute to a “development fund” to improve its facilities.

The funding had been asked for because of a £270,000 gap in Government money after the Department for Education kept funding at 2010 levels.

Mr James said the school was determined to secure the funds to free up more spaces, and will apply for funding next year.

He said some of the 201 pupils turned down may get a place in the second round on allocations if other pupils pull out.