Parents in around a fifth of areas in England are finding it harder to get their child into their top choice of primary school, figures suggest.
In the last 12 months, in a significant number of towns and cities, the proportion of families gaining their first preference, or one of their top three favoured primaries, has fallen.
The statistics, based on an analysis of government data by the Press Association, come just days before the deadline for families across the country to apply for primary places for children due to start school this autumn.
There have been concerns about a squeeze on school places, fuelled in part by a rise in the birth rate in the early 2000s, which is now working its way through into secondary schools.
Council chiefs said authorities are under “extreme pressure” to find places for increasing numbers of pupils, and that there are concerns about meeting the rising costs of providing enough places.
In the Press Association analysis of Department for Education data for the 2017/18 academic year, 28 out of 150 local councils (19 per cent) saw a drop in the proportion of pupils offered their first preferences of primary school, compared with the year before.
A total of 121 saw an increase in the proportion of first-choice offers, while for the others there was no change compared with 2016/17.
In addition, 31 authorities have seen a drop in the proportion of first-choice offers made to pupils compared with three years ago (2014/15), with 113 seeing an increase and the rest no change.