Most parents do not choose their nearest school

Only a minority of parents, 39 per cent, choose their local school as their first option.

More than 60% opt for a school that is further away - generally because they have better academic results.

The study, from researchers at the universities of Cambridge and Bristol, assessed more than 520,000 applications from 2014 to 2015.

It found that many parents use the system of preferences - and were not accepting their nearest option.

The study found that only 27 per cent of parents make the maximum number of choices permitted.

"On average we found parents and pupils usually attempt to try to study at the highest-attaining school, rather than the one which is closest," said Prof Anna Vignoles, from the University of Cambridge.

There was no significant difference in behaviour between wealthier and more disadvantaged parents as both were similarly engaged in using choices to seek more desirable school places.

Parents in poorer areas were more likely to opt for schools further away. This could be because richer families are more likely to live closer to high-performing schools, the report suggests.

Different parts of the country allow different numbers of preferences - usually three or six options - and the study found that where more options were offered, parents made twice as many choices.

The researchers said parents wanted to express more preferences, and having three rather than six choices could push parents into making pragmatic choices, rather than what they might really want.

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