Nearly 1,200 children across the district have been told they will not be going to their first-choice primary school in September.
The bombshell was dropped as more than 8,100 families were informed if their school applications had been successful.
But the figures revealed 1,724 applications went against Bradford Council advice by only listing one school on their application form.
Councillor Ralph Berry, the executive member for children’s services, said the authority needed to get the message across to parents to be more realistic when applying for places, and not put all their eggs in one basket.
Although the number of children getting their first choice was up on last year – 6,928 compared to 6,813 in 2013 – the proportion was down, from 87.22 per cent to 85.28.
Despite the council urging parents to list several ‘back-up’ choices on their applications, many chose to only list one.
Coun Berry said: “We have growing numbers of school-age children and the system is getting tighter.
“The whole business of preferences does not seem to have been fully grasped by some people, and that is a problem, especially if parents’ first choices have no likelihood of being accepted.
“Parents need to let us know ‘this is what we really want, but this is what we’re okay with’. This is what makes the whole process very difficult and where parents end up with schools they haven’t chosen.
“We are battling with a notion parents have that if they only put one preference this will carry more weight. The number of parents that are only putting one choice is quite shocking.”
He added the authority is working on expanding several schools to meet demand.
The primary school allocations come only weeks after it emerged a quarter of pupils applying for secondary schools in the district will not get their first choice.
Councillor Roger L’Amie, the council’s Tory spokesman for education, said: “Not getting your first choice is always going to be disappointing and a cause for concern for parents. I think this shows parents should at least list a second option.”
Councillor Jeannette Sunderland, leader of the Liberal Democrats, said: “This is a reason why the council should not allow more building on urban green space. They need to make sure there are enough school places before they start approving more houses.”
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