Bradford’s education chief says it is “incredible” that the number of children offered a place in a school of their choice has risen amid a rising population and financial cutbacks.

More than 2,000 children had been denied a place at their first-choice primary or secondary school at the beginning of October, including 213 primary and 83 secondary students who were not offered a place at any of their five preferred schools.

But Councillor Ralph Berry, Bradford Council’s executive member for children’s services, said the number of children offered their first-choice school had increased on last year.

He said: “The primary duty of the local authority is to get a place for every child.

After that the rhetoric of choice comes in. It isn’t choice, it’s the ability to express a preference.

“However, we work very hard to try to match those as best we can.

“We have had huge cutbacks here and the population is rising, so in that context even to nudge up preferences is a miracle.”

A total of 1,058 reception children were denied a place at their first-choice primary, while a total of 1,162 children going into year seven were refused their first choice, according to a Council report.

The report to the Council’s children’s services overview and scrutiny committee, which meets on Tuesday, said: “There were many areas where all schools were full in reception for September – for example, Haworth, Ilkley, Shipley, Bingley, postcode areas BD2/BD10, BD5, Clayton, Denholme, Cullingworth and Queensbury. In Keighley, all schools are full in reception.”

The report said the number of secondary students obtaining their first preference school is the highest it has been for many years, as is the number obtaining a place at any one of the preferred schools.

In total 8,083 primary pupils and 6,893 secondary students had applied for places by October 3 this year.

Of those, 7,027 primary and 5,731 secondary were offered their first choice.

Meanwhile, the report says while there has been an increase in appeals for allocations to reception in primary schools, there has been a reduction of 363 appeals lodged overall compared to last year.

Coun Berry said: “When you bear in mind the steady rise of children in Bradford and the reductions to the capital programme and the loss of the Building Schools for the Future, the fact we have been able to increase the number of parents getting their preferences is actually incredible.”