HUNDREDS of families are missing out on places at some of the top performing state schools in Scotland because of a housing boom.

New figures show the number of placing requests rejected by East Renfrewshire Council from parents who live outside the area has spiralled.

This year, 360 placing requests have been refused by the council out of a total of 531 submitted - an acceptance rate of just 32 per cent. Last year, just 185 were refused out of 543 giving an acceptance rate of 66 per cent.

East Renfrewshire schools such as St Ninian’s, Williamwood, Mearns Castle and Eastwood are popular because they regularly top exam league tables.

In previous years, schools rolls have been bolstered by accepting pupils from neighbouring council areas such as Glasgow, but that is now increasingly unlikely as new housing developments and a population rise means schools are already full.

Mhairi Shaw, East Renfrewshire’s director of education, said the latest census information from 2011 showed the proportion of 10 to 14-year-olds was now the highest of anywhere in Scotland at nearly seven per cent. The proportion of 0-15 year-olds is the second highest.

She said: “The reputation of our schools is attracting an increasing number of families to live in the area to the point where East Renfrewshire now has the highest proportion of 10 to 14-year-olds in its population of any local authority area in Scotland.

“We’re investing more than £77 million in the education estate, which will keep pace with this demand and ensure continued capacity for local residents in East Renfrewshire schools.

“However, an obvious consequence of inward migration is that it’s far more difficult for us to grant placing requests to families beyond the council area.”

Eileen Prior, executive director of the Scottish Parent Teacher Council, said the situation in East Renfrewshire was mirrored in other parts of Scotland.

She said: “Parents have the impression the system allows them to get into any school, but the reality is populations are rising and many schools are bursting at the seams.

“That means opportunities for families to select a school in a different catchment area from where they live are very limited and that can be particularly the case in city suburbs.

“Often parents will discount their local school, but evidence shows the difference between schools is not huge. If a child is well supported at home they are likely to do well.”

Iain Nisbet, consultant solicitor at Glasgow-based Cairn Legal, said lower primary class size regulations mean there was particular pressure on the P1 intake.

He said: “While there is a right of appeal where a placing request is refused, and it is always worth at least checking the local authority’s numbers on school capacity, the best way to secure a place at the school of your choice is to live within the catchment area.”