THE TOWN'S education chief revealed Reading Borough Council is now in position to make a bid for a new secondary school.

Figures show the number of children who were allocated their first-choice secondary school plummeted this year.

In fact, one out of every eight secondary school applicants have not been placed in any of the four schools they selected.

And in an exclusive interview with the Reading Chronicle, Councillor Tony Jones, lead member for education, blamed the result on a surplus of places at other schools.

He said: "This year there has been a surplus of 189 school places.

"If we had gone to the government last year (and said we need a new school) they would have asked us what we were talking about.

"We have a surplus because some schools are oversubscribed and some have empty spaces. We can't ignore the fact there are still empty spaces in the system.

"I understand why people are upset."

Once the empty spaces are filled the council will no longer have to deal with a surplus, Cllr Jones said.

It means the authority can make an official bid to the government to have a new secondary school.

Cllr Jones, Labour, continued: "We are in position now (to make a bid for a new school).

"We are talking to academies and asking them to come in with us.

"What is really at the heart of this now is that we need to find a site.

"We will need a school with classes."

Just 65.97 per cent of Year Six pupils have been given places at the preferred choice of schools for the coming September, down from 78.39 per cent last year.

It means 163 more children did not get placed at any of their chosen schools compared to last year while 209 fewer children were allocated a space at their first-choice school.

Reading Chronicle:

But Cllr Jones dismissed any accusation that the council is at fault.

"This is not a failure of planning. It is a system, and it is a system that I don't like.

"We can't just say that we're going to build a new school, even if we could afford to do it."

Scores of parents in Caversham vented their frustration at the council after their children were not given a place at Highdown, the town's only secondary school.

Several parents, including Stacey Greenough, whose son was given a place at John Madejski Academy, said they did not put Chiltern Edge School in Sonning Common as an option following its recent troubles.

Reading Chronicle:

Stacey Greenough was furious that her son, pictured, was allocated a place at John Madejski Academy despite living in Caversham.

Cllr Jones stressed he was part of a campaign to keep the school open and said he will try and help children in Caversham secure a place at the school.

He added: "I was concerned that perhaps what was happening at Chiltern Edge would have an impact on this year's allocation.

"Indeed it has had a huge impact.

"Some parents who selected Highdown didn't actually put any other preference. They only selected Highdown.

"Perhaps they were saying that they only want their children to go there.

"Oxford County Council were entitled to look at the viability of Chiltern Edge but I don't think it helped and I don't think it was necessary, I have said that publicly."

Cllr Jones said he planned to meet with parents and Reading East MP Matt Rodda to listen to their frustrations and answer questions.

He also suggested he would talk to Reading Buses about the possibility of providing school buses to take children from Caversham to schools further away.