Tens of thousands of appeals were lodged by mothers and fathers last year after their children were refused places at a chosen school in England, figures show.

More than a fifth of cases heard by a panel were decided in favour of parents.

One legal expert suggested that some families are resorting to appeals after failing to win a spot at a primary school close to home.

Others are lodging appeals in an attempt to secure a place at a high-achieving secondary school, he said.

Many areas, particularly major towns and cities, are facing a squeeze on places - mainly in primary schools - amid a rising birth rate.

The new government statistics show that 50,555 appeals were submitted over entry to England's state schools last autumn.

Of these, 30,315 were appeals over infant and primary school places, and the rest (20,235) related to secondary schools.

Almost 37,000 cases were heard by a panel, with 22.7% - nearly 8,400 in total - found in favour of parents.

The data, published by the Department for Education, covers both local council-run schools and academies.

Matt Richards, of schoolappeals.com, said he has seen a rise in inquiries from parents over primary school places.

"What we are seeing is more people who are being expected to travel further distances, to put their four-and-a-half year old in a cab to go to school," he said.

Mr Richards said it was becoming increasingly common for parents to put down three nearest primary schools and not get a place at one.

"People want a primary school they can logistically get their child to, by walking or public transport. But that reasonable distance seems to be stretching in what local authorities are able to offer."

He added: "At primary, people want a decent local school, at secondary they want a very good school and they will be prepared to travel a little bit."

All parents have the right to appeal if any school they applied to refuses their child a place.

The system allows parents to argue that schools broke official admissions rules or that there are ''compelling'' extra reasons why their child deserves a place.

A Department for Education spokeswoman said: "More parents have the choice of a good school place thanks to our reforms and the vast majority of parents have been offered a place at one of their preferred schools this academic year.

"This government has more than doubled to £5 billion the funding available to councils to create new school places, and we are allowing good schools to expand without the restrictions and bureaucracy they faced in the past.

"This has already led to the creation of 260,000 new school places across the country since 2010.

"We have also revised the admissions code so local authorities are held more closely to account over how they allocate places, providing more transparency to the public."