The Big School Admissions Swindle!

(125 Posts)
jojo28 Tue 15-Oct-13 10:16:53

Eleanor Palmer's catchment area this year was 167 meters - roughly the length of Roman Abromavich's yacht and sadly for the local community the co-hort are almost as privileged.

The Evening Standard wrote an excellent article www.standard.co.uk/lifestyle/london-life/revealed-the-legal-loophole-letting-pushy-parents-rent-the-best-state-school-places-8878941.html yesterday about the legal loophole parents exploit in order to bag a place at a so called 'prime primary'. I and other parents got royally screwed this year by Camden council's tacit acceptance of fraudulent applicants for Eleanor Palmer School.

Camden's current admissions criteria is one they sheepishly admit favours the well resourced and knowing.Councillor's and members of the admissions scrutiny panel wring their hands and point their fingers at their legal departments all but crying 'they made me do it!' whilst honest applicants get sent to the back of the queue. Other boroughs like Bromley, Hackney, Merton have stricter criteria in regard to address and temporary renting, unfortunately they are in the minority.

Our experience this year has made us acutely aware that this is a problem that effects parents and schools nationwide. Sadly there seems to be little will on the part of the Department of Education or the majority of council's to close this loophole and make the admission code for community schools as fair as possible. Is it time to push for a judicial review? The School's Admission Code states boldly that all council's admissions policies must 'fair clear and objective' is that your experience? Please add your anecdotes and opinions below.....

Farewelltoarms Tue 15-Oct-13 18:08:13

The irony of them rejecting the nearer outstanding school is that presumably it was due to EP's perceived 'better' (less fsm?) intake and more 'like-minded' families. Families who all know who they are and might not be well disposed...
Hearing about them contact the pcc is making me feel almost sorry for them. I'm sure they didn't foresee all this furore.

Erebus Tue 15-Oct-13 18:11:47

This is an aside and genuinely not 'aimed' at anyone- but I do confess a bit of hmm regarding some London boroughs and school places. Some people head to the bright lights and big(ger) money of the City, scrape a mortgage together, thus are ultimately on a housing trajectory many would envy (!), but yes, one others could choose if they wanted; they meet someone, get together, sell the flat to upsize and stay in the capital but can only afford a bigger place in a more down-market neighbourhood which they proceed to do- then they marry (poss), have a child and lo! The local school must a) be available to them, and b) must be 'good' by a young, urban professional's standards. But they weren't thinking 'school catchment' the day they upsized, were they?!

However, I hasten to add, I know that there are genuine 'local folks' in all London boroughs whose DC deserve a local school place!

Farewelltoarms Tue 15-Oct-13 18:12:49

But Erebus lots of renters and council tenants aren't in control of where they live and surely shouldn't be punished if they're forced to move due to the vagaries of renting?

A little girl in my daughter's class has been rehoused by the council further away from the school because her disabled grandmother came to live with them. She shouldn't have to move schools surely?

tiggytape Tue 15-Oct-13 18:19:13

Erebus - even the parents who think longterm come unstuck though because some London schools have a "zero catchment" area. That means nobody without a sibling gets an offer or (slightly better scenario) there are only 3 or 4 non-sibling places up for grabs.
If a couple carefully weigh up reasonable commute to only job available (London being the capital has jobs that don't exist elsewhere) / small house for the money / good local schools they still may find that they cannot get a local place.

It isn't unreasonable for a couple planning children to assume 'we live less than 500m from 2 schools that aren't perfect but are perfectly fine' never guessing this may not be enough.

JustAnotherUserName Tue 15-Oct-13 18:31:53

I wouldn't do it, but then I can afford private fees. Many do down my way (for secondaries primarily). I don't see anyone shunning them or their DC though. It just what is done. Not saying its right.

But nor is it right that people with mega Millions can buy closer and closer and closer and be permanently in catchment as opposed to only temporarily.

I agree that sibling rules should be changed though. At least make the B#&gers do it for every child !

PandaG Tue 15-Oct-13 18:37:52

here (in Sheffield) in catchment siblings are above in catchment non-siblings, but in catchment and no sibling are above out of catchment siblings, which I think is fairer - no renting close for child 1, then getting each subsequent child in on the back of the first child.

PatPig Tue 15-Oct-13 18:40:17

Yep. Housing in London is ludicrously fucking expensive.

Most parents at my children's home counties (affluent area) private school live in lower cost housing than the houses you get in catchment of the super-desirable London state schools.

In many (but not all) cases these are liberal London types who are fabulously wealthy but want to send their children to 'state school' so they have bought close to some super-exclusive state school.

No shits given here I'm afraid.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Tue 15-Oct-13 19:08:47

The thing is, if all schools were of a decent standard, there wouldn't be this yearly clamour for places at the 'good' schools. It's more shocking that schools in special measures are allowed to continue 'educating' the next generation and that despite having excellent knowledge of local birth rates, the government hasn't increased school place numbers accordingly.

soundevenfruity Tue 15-Oct-13 19:09:07

It's not going to be a popular move but they just need to introduce a new rule that stipulates that if a family with siblings moved for whatever reason they loose sibling priority and have to apply like everybody else.

And children's responsibility for their patents should be extended. For example, children of patents with driving offences should be banned from performing at assemblies, children of mothers that arrive dishevelled to the school gates should be made sitting separately with their lunch, children of alcoholics should be allowed only 10 minutes of play outside. And for children whose parents cheated to get them in the school there will be uniform with "cheater" embroidered on their back.

jojo28 Tue 15-Oct-13 19:21:23

Primafacie - that is very interesting. This is the type of thing I really want to hear about. I suspected that some councils might talk a good game but the application might not be that good and your experience seems to testify to this. Certainly Camden are changing the wording of their starting school guide but there still seems to be a feeling from those who work in the admissions team that legally a temporary rental would still be seen as valid for an application.
When we consulted an education solicitors they also felt that a temporary rental address was valid for an application so long as you actually lived there at the time of the application - clearly it wasn't fair but legally it was allowed.
I believe that it is the legal framework that is lacking - the code can ask the councils to run fair admissions codes but legally it is tough for them to enforce. I am no legal expert - how can we go about changing this? Do we need a judicial review, can the Department of Education make changes to the code? I don't know but a friend found this webcache.googleusercontent.com/search?

q=cache:NwbD3js1rwkJ:1chancerylane.co.uk/download/NzA%3D+school+admissions+fraud&cd=13&hl=en&ct=clnk&gl=uk

It encapsulates many of the legal problems surrounding admissions fraud.

Erebus Tue 15-Oct-13 19:30:34

sound- tres amusing, yes.

But are you of the opinion that the sanctity of a child's outstanding school place puts them beyond reproach? Even though they, of course, didn't obtain that place, their parents did...?

But- how about the dreadful disruption that could be caused if mum and dad moved from the poky 2 br flat they were renting (and possibly never living in, anyway..) back to the 4 br, 3 storey penthouse, once DC1 was 'in'- then finding shock that DC2's passage wasn't to be so gilded! HOW unfair! shock.... I mean, DC2 can hardly be held responsible for their birth order, can they? How dare the rules discriminate so unfairly on them?..

Can you see how pick'n'mix you're being about Admissions?

keepsmiling12345 Tue 15-Oct-13 19:57:29

Interestingly, there was an article in the Standard a fortnight or so ago (I can't link so suggest you google "Richmond councillor loses school place the Standard") about a councillor in Richmond who has resigned/been asked to stand down because of a dispute she is in with the council over school places. If you read the article in the Standard, you will see that Richmond council did not believe the family were really living at the rental address and therefore refused to use that address for the applications process. Instead they suggested the permanent family home was the one on which the councillor paid council tax etc. I obviously am not party to the specifics of this case but it just goes to show that some councils are prepared to simply refuse to believe temporary rental addresses are "permanent homes". An approach which, as a parent whose DC only got into her school because it took a bulge class, would support.

SDhopeful Tue 15-Oct-13 19:58:23

When Ds was in reception 10 years ago there was a family who lied about their address and got away with it. they had a large house slightly too far away ( still only 5 mins walk form the school!). They claimed they had slit up, and the mum and the children, moved' to a tiny flat just outside the school, whole dad remained in the big house 5 mins walk away - yeah - as if! yes, maybe does happen, with DV etc, but this couple were reunited shortly after the beginning of term, and the mum and kids 'moved back' to the big house. The mum only had a mobile number at the flat.. The family were never popular, tho I don't believe anyone would have penalised the child in any way. Sister next year got in as a sibling. To add insult to injury, they moved away after two years to a grammar school area, so a family that could have had kids there form reception all the way to y6 were deprived.
Interestingly, there was a big scandal recently when a local councillor(!) failed to get a place at that same school, as the address she was using was her mothers. She has a house elsewhere in the borough, but said it was 'uninhabitable'. Council said pull the other one not valid reason. She resigned from the council in protest at being denied the place.The council (Richmond) has now clarified the rules - if you own a house, and live somewhere else, it is the owned house that counts as your permanent address.

jojo28 Tue 15-Oct-13 19:58:44

Patpig - so you are saying that because I and my friends live in central London we deserve to have fallen victim to a crappy admissions process?

I don't doubt your immense knowledge of the London housing market but let me disabuse you of any such notions about the people involved in this particular story. Certainly none of us paid anything like a million quid for our property not even half a million, all but one of us live in flats, some of us live in council housing or housing association properties and all of us have lived in the area way before its recent gentrification and inflated property prices. Not that any of that is pertinent - we applied honestly on our application forms and put our faith in the council to operate an admissions process that was transparent and fair. We feel we have been let down and we think it is time for a change to benefit all who support their local state primary schools wherever they live.

Shootingatpigeons Tue 15-Oct-13 20:00:33

In one leafy borough even the councillors are falling out over it [[ http://twickerati.wordpress.com/2013/09/17/richmond-council-virginia-morris-environment-cabinet-role/]]

Shootingatpigeons Tue 15-Oct-13 20:00:51
SDhopeful Tue 15-Oct-13 20:01:48

alienattack - co-incidence - x-post! grin

Farewelltoarms Tue 15-Oct-13 20:10:10

Going back to Wibbly pig's point about if only all schools were good etc, apparently the parents in this case did live within the distance to gain a place at another, also outstanding, school. Just not, apparently outstanding in the right way for them.

As you correctly point out, there will be a terrible shortage of primary places in the coming years. Which will make this sort of behaviour even more reprehensible.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Tue 15-Oct-13 20:36:02

I read the Richmond councillor story too as that's where we used to live. Interesting, huh?

I have a question - sort of hypothetical at this stage, but:

We moved overseas for DH's job last year. We have a property that we currently rent out in London where we used to live. If we were to move back to the UK in time for DC1 to start the UK schooling system, there's a chance that we'd all cram back into the flat whilst we looked for a bigger place to buy. Yes, it's ours but to all intents and purposes, we'd only be living there temporarily.

I guess I'm not explaining this very well, but I suppose what I'm asking is could there be genuine situations where people need to/do move and they unwittingly commit an offence because they're between homes?

SDhopeful Tue 15-Oct-13 20:45:20

Wibbly in your situation, you would not be cheating the system - you would be living in the flat you own.

Erebus Tue 15-Oct-13 21:18:12

wibbly's :The thing is, if all schools were of a decent standard, there wouldn't be this yearly clamour for places at the 'good' school

Define 'decent standard'. Define 'good'.

We, the English don't appear to want 'better' for our DC, we want 'better than yours'. And we won't rest til we get it. There's one place on that coveted training programme/RG uni left. Both yours and my DC attend a 'good' school. Both are equally gifted. Would we leave it to chance that our DC will prevail over yours? Or will we seek 'better'? Tutoring? Private? Renting next door to ensure a DC's place?

An interesting programme on TV not long ago (Was it 'The Secret History of the Grammar School'?) made a point: That GSs were created to fill the upper tiers of admin positions as there weren't quite enough 'gentlemen' at public school to go round. But suddenly, those upstart little oiks were bettering the posh boys! So suddenly just 'being a gentleman with the right ancestry' wasn't enough to get the lifelong benefit of public school. You needed brains as well. Or, just maybe, you needed an on-side government to disband GSs in favour of comps? Where the out-take wouldn't threaten little Horace's birthright?

Good, Decent, whatever. But Not As Good As My Child's School, thanks.

That's the English way, at least.

nlondondad Tue 15-Oct-13 22:41:37

More stuff on this here.

www.localschoolsnetwork.org.uk/2013/10/camden-turn-a-blind-eye-to-school-fraud/

I actually know the Eleanor Palmer area well: the absurd thing is that all the surrounding schools, in which these parents would have got places are very good.

But by some mysterious process EP seems to have become a "trophy" school...

jojo28 Tue 15-Oct-13 23:19:49

nlondondad - you are absolutely right. We are blessed with so many great primary schools. The problem facing the parents who live closest to Eleanor Palmer is that if they don't get in there they don't get into any of the other local schools. Most of us got offered schools we would not consider local i.e. no other children in the neighbourhood go there and you cant walk to them. Some at the last minute got offered Tufnell Park which is a great school and local to boot, others were not so lucky but are really making a go of it joining the PTA rallying other parents and sharing the school run. The 10 parents who didn't get in have formed strong friendships based on the knowledge that good schools are about building communities, supporting and involving yourself in the life of the school celebrating it's diversity and having faith in the values and environment in which you are raising your children in.

Shootingatpigeons Tue 15-Oct-13 23:30:06

The Richmond Councillor story is about getting into a school where this was going on even 17 years ago. In fact when our street fell out of the catchment for the first time as a result of the pressure on places from the siblings of those who had rented and moved away, the Education department actually provided us with a map to use at appeal, with Councillors, MPs etc. which showed the addresses of siblings, and there were multiple addresses completely outside the borough, Chiswick, Hammersmith and even Chelsea, apparently those children arrived in a chauffeur driven people carrier angry In the meantime we and 60 other families were offered a place in a bulge class in a portacabin.

nlondondad Tue 15-Oct-13 23:41:19

@jojo28

I understand completely, and I am glad you realised that when I wrote "these parents" I meant "these parents who cheated" .

The parents who were deprived of places at EP then find themselves absurdly with long journeys. Bonkers.

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