Published: 21 March, 2013
by DAN CARRIER
THE Town Hall has pledged to crack down on pushy parents who fiddle school admission forms by listing short-term rental properties as home addresses to get their children into the best-performing primaries.
Worried parents affected by the race for places have written to council chiefs with their suspicions about how the system can be sidestepped. The council has said it will take a tough stance over “fraudulent” applications.
With Camden schools feted by inspectors as some of the best in the country, the New Journal has been repeatedly told how some parents are renting homes near schools to get their children places when they have no intention of living there for any length of time.
The problem has got so bad that parents whose children are in the nursery at Kentish Town’s Eleanor Palmer School, one of the best in north London, have written to the Town Hall outlining what they see as loopholes which well-off families can exploit – and are demanding action.
Tim Carew lives 200 yards from Eleanor Palmer, which has an “outstanding” Ofsted report and a glowing reputation among parents.
His daughter was in the nursery and the family expected she would gain a place in the reception class. But to their dismay, she missed out by one place – and now faces a much longer journey to Carlton Primary School in Gospel Oak. He said: “My daughter was offered a nursery place. They made it clear there was no guarantee they will get a place in the reception class, but we thought we would be about 25th in line and there was a good chance we would get into the school. We were 33rd.
“There is one set of parents who have rented a house in Raveley Street [where the school is situated] when their permanent address is much, much further away, out of the catchment area. It meant they got their daughter in and pushed mine out.”
He added: “People are dropping out of the private school system. Their reasoning is it could cost around £20,000 to rent a home near a good school for a year, or £120,000 to pay fees for primary schools for a few years, so it’s a money saver.
“It is immoral. It is at the expense of someone else’s child. What message are you sending to your own child by behaving like this?”
The New Journal contacted three heads at some of Camden’s best-performing schools which parents say are targeted by cheats but none would go on the record about the issue.
The letter signed by 19 Eleanor Palmer School nursery parents to the Town Hall said: “Schools deemed outstanding by Ofsted inspections, like Eleanor Palmer, are at high risk from fraud.
“We know of two families who own homes within five minutes and even they have rented additional accom-modation to gain an advantage over their neighbour’s children.”
Estate agent Ashley Gendler, a director at Burghley’s in Fortess Road, near Eleanor Palmer, said: “We have lots of people who want to live here because of Yerbury and Eleanor Palmer. Around admission time we get lots of people looking to buy or rent to get the right postcode. They will do whatever they have to do, hopefully legitimately, to get their children in.”
Town Hall education chief Labour councillor Angela Mason said the council would review the system: “It is quite wrong that people should ‘game’ the admissions process by moving into temporary accommodation close to the school of their choice. I have asked for a review of our admissions process looking at the way other councils deal with this problem.”
Last year, applicants were screened against credit reference agency records under a pilot scheme. The number of investigations has risen significantly using the new process and has resulted in more cases where there is evidence of fraud.