A record number of children have secured a place at one of their preferred primary schools for next year, but a fifth of Croydon's four-year-olds missed out on their top choice.

Parents yesterday received letters allocating their child a place to start school in September, with 81.8 per cent of applicants winning a place at their first-choice primary.

The figure is a rise from 78.9 per cent last year, despite an increase in children, and comes amid a £325m programme to increase create more places for a surging school-age population. 

Some 4,816 children have applied to start school next year, compared to 4,726 in 2013.

Ninety-four per cent of applicants were allocated a place at one of their top three preferred schools, which Croydon Council said was the highest ever rate.

But 2.1 per cent did not win a place at any of their chosen six schools and have been allocated a spot at the closest school with remaining capacity.

The council said all children who applied by the January deadline had been allocated a place.

Nathan Elvery, the council's chief executive, said: "Parents of 4,530 of Croydon’s children will be delighted to learn over the next few days, if they haven’t already, their children will be going to one of their three favoured schools.

"This is fantastic news for everyone and shows how our focus on building new school places is paying off for the benefit of local people."

Croydon Council's has been allocated £133m in Government funding for its school-building programme in the face of a projected increase of 1,560 school starters by 2017.

The council said it was continuing to lobby the Government for further money.

Some of the money has been spent on building a new school, to be run by the Harris Federation, in Haling Road, South Croydon, while the funding will also be used to create 10 bulge classes across the borough from September.

Three free schools - Paxton Academy in London Road, Advance Free School in Upper Norwood and Harris Invictus in West Croydon - are also scheduled to open in the autumn.