More Swindon pupils have gained a place at their first-choice primary school this year, new figures show.

School leaders’ union the National Association of Headteachers says the anxiety for parents over not securing their preferred school this year will “only be heightened” by fear and uncertainty felt during the coronavirus pandemic.

Department for Education figures show that 95.4 per cent of children starting primary school in Swindon this September received an offer from their first-choice school – up from 95.1 per cent last year.

That means 126 families missed out on gaining a place at their first-choice primary school, as the number of applications to primary schools in the area fell by 1 per cent to 2,710.

The picture in Swindon contrasted with that across England, where 90.2 per cent of Reception starters received an offer from their first-choice school, falling from 90.6 per cent last year.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders (ASCL), said there is concern around a variation in rates between different areas of the country.

“It is a complex issue because it is associated with high demand for popular schools, but it means many families are left disappointed, and this issue does need to be addressed,” he said.

Meanwhile, the proportion of pupils securing a place at their first-choice secondary school in Swindon rose from 91.2 per cent last year to 95 per cent this year.

That was higher than the national rate, which rose from 80.9 per cent to 82.2 per cent over the same period.

Paul Whiteman, general secretary of NAHT, said: “The anxiety families are feeling, and the disappointment for those not getting their first choice, will only be heightened by the confusion and uncertainty caused by coronavirus.

“It is vital that no child going through the primary admissions process this year should be disadvantaged.

“For those families not getting their first choice of school, the appeals process must be as robust as ever and be made clear to parents.”

The Department for Education announced a temporary relaxing of the rules around school admission appeals at the end of April, meaning they do not have to be held face-to-face during the coronavirus pandemic.

School standards minister Nick Gibb said: “The vast majority of parents have again received an offer from one of their top three preferences of primary or secondary school for the next academic year.

“We will be supporting primary schools that have capacity to bring back more children – with reduced class sizes of 15 – to do so if they can before the summer holidays, and we will be working with the sector to bring all children back to school in September.”