THE number of appeals over secondary school places in Oxfordshire has risen rapidly, with hundreds of unhappy families arguing their case.

New Department for Education figures show that for the 2018-19 intake, the academic year just finished, there were 244 appeals of 7,905 secondary admissions.

This was up on 2017-18 despite there being more admissions that year - 7,947, of which there were 155 appeals.

Many cases are dropped before being heard, particularly if a child is offered a place at their preferred school via a waiting list.

Last year Oxfordshire County Council, which is responsible for allocating state school places, heard 150 appeals.

This compares to 88 the previous year - an increase of 70 per cent.

The proportion of cases upheld in parents' favour did not change significantly, however, rising from 42 per cent to 43 per cent.

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For both years this was almost double the national proportion of 23 per cent.

According to Department for Education, though, this does not necessarily mean Oxfordshire appeals are more likely to succeed than elsewhere in England.

Analysis published by the Department said: "Local authority data showed significant variation, both in the number of appeals heard and in the success rates for those that were.

"However, the varying number of appeals being heard in many local authorities can affect the figures significantly.

"There has been no evidence found that the likelihood of an appeal being successful within a local authority is affected by either the total number of new admissions or the number of appeals heard."

The data covers both admissions for reception and Year 7, and new admissions into other years, for example due to relocation.

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Kent was the local authority with the highest number of secondary appeals heard last year, at 2,483, of which 28.6 per cent were upheld.

In Oxfordshire, the number of primary school appeals decreased slightly, from 135 appeals in 2017-18 to 117 in 2018-19.

Nationally, the number of secondary appeals heard has been gradually increasing since 2015-16, coinciding with rising number of admissions due to increased births between 2002 and 2012.

Most pupils go back to school this week for the 2019-20 academic year, which was considered to be crunch time for the bulge in secondary admissions in the county.

The delay of Oxford's new Swan School meant that some pupils were allocated back-up places in schools as far away as Witney and Abingdon, and many parents told the Oxford Mail they would take their case to appeal.

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At the time, the county council said demand this year had been 'exceptionally high.'

A spokesperson added: "Every application is rigorously considered in light of published admissions criteria for each of the secondary schools prior to offers being made."

On Wednesday, the council's education scrutiny committee is due to hear a presentation on the sufficiency of school places, including an update on population trends.