PARENTS hoping to get their children into one of Hounslow's three Catholic secondary schools have been frustrated by a change in the admissions procedure.
This year church schools were required for the first time to comply with the controversial 'equal preference system'.
Under the scheme, designed to simplify the admissions process, parents rate six schools in order of preference.
Schools then make their offers blind, without knowing whether they were that child's first or last choice.
Secondary schools in Hounslow have been using the Pan-London Co-ordinated Admissions scheme for three years, but this is the first time church schools have been included.
One disappointed mother, who wished to remain anonymous, said it was 'ridiculous' schools could offer a place to someone who had listed it as their sixth choice but reject a child for whom it was their first.
The move has highlighted the shortage of places at Hounslow's three Catholic secondary schools - St Mark's, Gumley House and Gunnersbury.
St Mark's Catholic School in Bath Road, Hounslow, had more than 900 applicants this year for fewer than 200 places.
ead teacher Paul Enright admitted there was pressure on Catholic school places in Hounslow. "Last year more than 40 parents appealed [after being refused a place at St Mark's] and I suspect this year's figure will be similar," he said.
Admission to Catholic schools is decided firstly on whether the applicants practise that faith, secondly on whether they have brothers or sisters already there and thirdly on their distance from the school.
Schools are not able to base their decision on how long families have lived in the area or how closely they are involved with the church.
Paul Barber, director of education for the Diocese of Westminster, which includes Hounslow, said it is keen to build a Catholic secondary school in neighbouring Richmond, where there are none, to ease the pressure on those in Hounslow.
He added that the extra demand has been spurred, in part, by the recent influx of immigrants from Catholic countries across Eastern Europe, such as Poland.
Overall, 68 per cent of children in Hounslow received places at their first-choice school last week. Four-fifths of applicants got into their first or second-choice school.