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Wednesday, April 14, 1999 Published at 11:17 GMT 12:17 UK


Education

Parents cheat over school places

Camden's reputation for good schools can bring problems

Parents looking for school places for their children in north London are attempting to cheat their way into the most sought after schools.

The London Borough of Camden has found that the pressure to find places in the borough's best schools has pushed some parents into giving false addresses that would put their children within school catchment areas.


[ image: Camden has to handle many more applications than there are school places available]
Camden has to handle many more applications than there are school places available
There have also been cases where parents have tried to jump the queue for places by claiming that their children had brothers or sisters in schools, when they only had cousins.

"Headteachers in some schools are having to carry out a policing job," said a council spokeswoman, as suspicious applications are investigated to see if children should qualify for school places.

"It's a growing problem as places become tighter and more parents become aware of what different schools offer. As such, headteachers have had to become more attuned to the possibility of false applications."

The government's drive to reduce primary class sizes has also meant that popular, over-subscribed schools have limited their intakes, creating extra pressures on other local schools.

Camden has fixed rules for determining which children are admitted. Preference is given to children with siblings already at a school, with this expected to account for between a third and half of places.

There is also expected to be an allocation of 5% of places for children with special needs. The majority of remaining places are given on the grounds of proximity to the school.

Pressures for London parents

Within London there are particular pressures on parents to find desirable places for their children - with the capital having some of the most and least successful schools in the country, often within a relatively small geographical area.

With several inner-London boroughs performing poorly in school league tables, parents have been encouraged to search further afield for places.

These attempts to send children across borough boundaries has put further pressures on places in popular schools.

For instance, Camden's school places are sought by parents from neighbouring Hackney and Islington, which have been perceived to be among the capital's less successful education authorities.

False addresses

As well as allegations of parents giving false addresses, there have been claims in the past that parents have temporarily rented properties in school catchment areas to secure places.

"Borrowing" the address of a relative or friend in a catchment area has also been claimed as another way into a school, with post being re-directed to the parents' actual place of residence.

A more common practice has been for parents to buy houses in the catchment area of a desirable school. The most successful primary school in London in the league tables for the past two years - Our Lady of Victories in Putney - is claimed to have added £50,000 to the price of property in its catchment area.

The introduction of league tables has also made parents more aware of the different achievement levels among local schools, a factor which has contributed to a sharply rising number of contested decisions over applications.

Last year the number of appeals over school admissions rose by 16% in England, according to the Department for Education and Employment.



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