Dozens of children are being left without a secondary school place, despite the council spending hundreds of millions on improving secondary school opportunities in the borough.
Figures obtained by the Hackney Post show that 150 children living in Hackney did not get a place at any state secondary school last year.
Parents say secondary school entry remains a postcode lottery, with many still going to extremes to get their children into the best schools.
One Stoke Newington parent, who preferred not to give her name, said: “A woman I know had a lovely big house in Clapton, but she moved her family into a rented flat above a shabby parade of shops just to qualify for Stoke Newington School.”
Last year Mossbourne Community Academy received 1425 applications for just 188 places. Stoke Newington School last year received 862 applications for its 240 places.
The least popular school was the Yesodey Hatorah Jewish Orthodox girls’ school, which received four applications fewer than it had places.
Hackney has spent £170m building five new academies in as many years, as well as £167m refurbishing existing secondary schools.
Tim Schultz of the Hackney Learning Trust said: “It is difficult when children don’t get a school place, but not being offered a place does not mean that child is not going to get an education.
“We try and administer the system as professionally as possible and give parents as much support as we possibly can.
“We have built four new secondary schools in as many years. That’s not an answer for the parent whose child needs a place today, but it is a direct attempt to meet parental demand.”
Schultz added that there will be an extra 224 year seven places available in the borough this September to meet the demand.
Case Study: “You don’t expect to be told there is no secondary school place for your child”
Last year, Caroline Ryan’s daughter Katie, 11, did not get a place at any of the borough’s secondary schools. Katie, who lives in Stoke Newington, has since started at La Sainte Union, an all-girls catholic school in the neighbouring borough of Camden.
“Despite living in Hackney, we’re not actually in the catchment area for any secondary school. We lived closer to Stoke Newington School than any other, but it really is the only good school in this area, so it is completely oversubscribed. Katie didn’t get in, even though a friend of hers, who actually lives further away than us, got a place.
“When you contribute to your borough for all those years, you don’t expect to be told there is no secondary school place for your child. But Katie didn’t get a place at any Hackney school. We were then told she couldn’t go to La Sainte Union either, because the government was forcing them to change their selection criteria. They said we lived three minutes too far away. We then went through an appeals process.
“Between March and June last year, Katie didn’t have a place at any secondary school. It was difficult for her. I think Hackney is trying its best, but it completely messed up with Katie. I was annoyed that I didn’t really have another choice. Ideally, I wanted her to go to a single sex girls’ school but it wasn’t really an option nearby. We had something to fall back on by going down the Catholic route, but a lot of people don’t have that.
“The main problem is that there are so few schools. In Katie’s class, I think at least 60% of the kids went to secondary schools outside of the borough. That is the case every year. Hackney kids need to travel long distances to get a better education. You see them going in all sorts of different directions because locally they have no choice.”