Parents who failed to win places for their children at favoured primary schools yesterday criticised the new allocation system as unfair, saying it relied too heavily on family background. Forty-seven per cent of 64,000 pupils were not offered places at schools of their choice when results of the next school year's discretionary allocation were announced yesterday. Pupils starting Primary One next September were the first batch to take part in the new admission system, under which the proportion of places allocated at the discretion of schools has been reduced from 65 per cent to 50 per cent. The remaining 50 per cent are earmarked for territory-wide central allocation in March. The new system is aimed at stopping schools relying on interviews to select pupils, a method that educationalists argued put too much pressure on pre-school children. Popular schools, which were oversubscribed for discretionary places, were swamped with parents checking the allocation results from early yesterday morning. Doris Cheung said she was disappointed after failing to secure a discretionary place at the prestigious La Salle Primary School in Kowloon Tong for her son, Thomas. About 800 pupils applied for the 110 discretionary places offered by the school. Seventy-eight of the places were taken up by applicants with siblings studying there. Ms Cheung said: 'The new system is unfair because it is the applicants' family and religious background, not their own abilities, that counts.' Fifty-seven per cent of the 33,799 discretionary places available in the 2002/2003 school year were offered to applicants with siblings studying or parents working in the schools of their choice. Under the new system, applicants are admitted automatically to their favoured school if they have brothers or sisters there. An applicant who has the same religious faith as the school or where a parent is a graduate also has an advantage under a points system. Government and subsidised primary schools were not allowed this year to conduct face-to-face interviews or written exams to select pupils for the discretionary places. Tik Chi-yuen, chairman of the Committee on Home-School Co-operation, said the changes were aimed at relieving pressure on pre-school children competing for places at popular schools. One woman, whose granddaughter failed to secure a place at Yaumati Catholic Primary School in Mongkok, said children could no longer enter their favoured school through their own efforts. But George Chow celebrated with his wife, Aagean, when they learned their son, Matthew, had been admitted to La Salle Primary School. 'My son enjoys certain advantages over other applicants because I'm an old boy of the school myself,' Mr Chow said. The family moved from Tuen Mun to Kowloon Tong two years ago to increase their chances. Louisa Tang Mei-sin, principal of Baptist Lui Ming Choi Primary School in Sha Tin, said she supported the new system as it helped relieve the administrative burden on the school. 'In the past few years, we had to meet hundreds of applicants who scrambled for just 10 places available to those without connections to our school,' she said.