A BBC survey of secondary school admissions suggests nearly nine out of 10 children across much of England were offered their first choice of school.
All pupils in the City of London got into the school they wanted
This week about 600,000 families were told which secondary school their children will attend in September.
But the survey, based on results from 140 out of 150 education authorities, points to a divided country.
In London, an average 65% of children were offered their first choice, compared to 87% in the rest of England.
In Leicestershire, Redcar and Cleveland, 98% of 10 and 11-year-olds will be joining their first choice secondary schools in September.
The survey revealed exceptions within the bigger picture.
In Birmingham, for example, less than two thirds of pupils got their first preference schools.
The BBC survey also suggests there may be greater dissatisfaction this year, with more than half of the authorities who took part recording a smaller proportion of successful first preferences than last year.
This may result in there being more appeals.
Official statistics are due to be published next week by the Department for Children, Schools and Families.
England average outside London: 87%
London average: 65%
Leicestershire, Redcar and Cleveland: 98%
The figures obtained by the BBC survey broadly confirm last year's statistics from most local authorities.
But Gary Eason, the BBC News website's education editor, said admission figures should be treated with caution as a number of factors skewed the outcomes.
"A notable distortion is seen in areas of academic selection - where many children did not get into their first choice of school simply because they did not pass the 11-plus tests," he said.
He also said some schools used to insist they would only consider children who had made them their first preference, so parents played safe and tended to put down a school they felt sure of getting into.
Now that practice is banned, he said, parents can make what local officials categorise as unrealistic first preferences, safe in the knowledge it will not adversely affect their chance of getting into another school.