The full scale of the ratcheting pressure on local public services from years of high birth rates and mass immigration has been revealed amid a surge in applications to secondary schools this year.
Councils have been asked to find places for up 13 per cent more pupils in some areas, while in London alone there are almost 2,800 more children to accommodate than just a year earlier.
Around half a million families with 11-year-olds across England have been finding out which school they have been allocated on what is nicknamed “national offer day”.
In some areas, almost half are facing disappointment after failing to secure a place in their first choice and in at least one area the number missing out on any of their preferences has leapt by 70 per cent.
It comes as new analysis revealed that one in six secondary schools are now at or over capacity, with forecasts estimating that 300,000 additional school places will be needed by 2020.
Remarkably, despite the extra pressure, the number of children celebrating after receiving offers for their chosen school has actually increased in most areas of the country.
It follows a massive drive to create new school places to keep pace with the swelling population – with 3,000 more places a month being created, according to Government estimates.
But demographers warned the growing demands on schools and other local services would only be sustainable by “draining” resources from elsewhere.
It comes at a time when councils, which have borne the brunt of public spending cuts, have warned of having to dim street lights or cut library budgets to cope with the growing demand for care for older people – amid a double demographic squeeze.
Across London the number of pupils applying for secondary school places for September jumped by 3.3 per cent to 86,954, according to councils.
Figures collated by the Telegraph show a similar pattern across the country.
Numbers are up more than seven per cent in Manchester and almost five per cent in Leeds and Portsmouth.
The biggest local increases were in parts of London such as Barking and Dagenham where the 355 extra pupils amount to a 13 per cent rise.
Birmingham, the UK’s biggest local authority, sums up the battle education chiefs face to keep pace with demographics.
Despite the increase in applications, more than 200 more children got into their first choice school than last year in the city.
But nearly a third – 4,555 children – did not and almost a thousand did not get any of their choices.
In neighbouring Sandwell – where applications have swollen by almost seven per cent in two years – the number getting into their first preference was also up but the numbers missing out on any of their main choices and being allocated an alternative jumped from 181 to 311 – or 70 per cent.
Prof David Coleman, the leading Oxford University demographer, said: “If the forces blind increasing numbers of children continue it is likely that the pressure will continue.
“They will only be sustainable at the cost of considerable economic drain as more money has to be diverted to more school places and maternity wards earlier on and employment opportunities later.”
He added: “It is certainly going to take a lot of things to ‘give’ at least a little – especially when at the same time there is, for completely different reasons, pressure to impose austerity on the public finances.”
Helen Jenner, chair of the Pan London Admissions Board, said: “Demand for secondary school places in the capital is on the rise as the primary pressure works its way through the system.
“Local authorities have worked hard to put in place plans to meet this increased demand so that more pupils are offered a school place of their choice in London.
“Today’s figures show that despite the rise in the number of applications, preference rates have not dropped. In fact the percentage of pupils that received their first preference place increased slightly.
Cllr Victoria Mills, cabinet member for children and schools in Southwark, south London, where numbers are up more than eight per cent, said: “This year we were looking at record numbers of applications and this trend is set to continue.”