Children are not getting places at popular secondary schools because a change in admissions policy means they live too far away.

Parents in east Brighton say Brighton and Hove City Council's change from selecting children from priority areas for particular schools, which includes considering how easily children can get to other schools, to a distance-only measure is unfair and puts them at a disadvantage.

Admissions criteria only apply to over-subscribed schools and include special needs, whether children have siblings at the school and now how far away they live.

With the forthcoming closure of East Brighton College of Media Arts (Comart) in Wilson Avenue, there is no obvious secondary school for children in east Brighton.

Parent Paul Grivell said: "It has been a subtle change but has had a massive impact here in east Brighton. The schools in the city are very badly distributed and if you live in specific areas such as east Brighton you are extremely unlikely to get into any of your preferred schools because other people are nearer than you.

"The council gave us a pledge when they said Comart would close that children would not be disadvantaged by living in this area but we are.

"We think the admissions criteria are too crude and we want the council to consider more sophisticated policies."

Mr Grivell, of Dawson Terrace, has three children. The eldest Tilly, 11, has been offered a place at Falmer High School in September, which is further away from the family home than the Grivells' first choice of Varndean School, which is full.

Parents in Elm Grove, Hanover, Kemp Town, Queen's Park and Whitehawk are gathering a petition to change the selection system and ensure parental choice for their children's school. They will hand it to councillors at the next full council meeting on April 28 and intend to stage a demonstration.

A council spokesman said: "It is always a matter of regret when we are not able to give parents and pupils their first choice of school. The old system was based on priority areas which were ultimately subjective in where we drew the line.

"After consultation we introduced a new software system which measures safe walking distances from homes to schools. It is transparent and objective and people understand how it works. Whatever system we use someone is going to be disadvantaged by it. The number of people who get their first choice remains at about 90 per cent.