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 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.....

prh47bridge Tue 15-Oct-13 11:20:51

Many councils where this is a problem have procedures in place for catching parents who rent in order to get a place. They don't have to state anything explicitly in their rules. They are entitled to withdraw an offer made when the application is fraudulent or deliberately misleading. I am appalled at the attitude taken by Camden assuming this report is accurate. They can and should withdraw places awarded to any parents who have obtained them by renting temporarily.

Farewelltoarms Tue 15-Oct-13 12:14:18

I had read about this story before with interest as I know people with children there and live not too far away myself. Putting aside Camden's incompetency for a minute, it's the emotional aspect of it I just can't understand.

One of the most appealing things for me is going to our local school (and it is properly local, I can hear playground noises as I type), is that I am part of a community. If everyone knew that my child had got a place through dubious means, then I'd feel awkward and mortified every time I dropped my children off, instead of invigorated by the interactions I have on a daily basis.

The head was even against these parents. I'm so craven in my need to be liked by authority figures that we've never even had an authorised day off school so I can't begin to understand how the relationship between the head and these parents could ever work. I wonder if the families will regret what they've done and eventually move their children.

Going back to Camden, I know of at least three families who've rented near Camden Girls with no repercussions. And at least that number near Fortismere in Haringay. If I heard of it in time, I think I'd now shop them, not that it seems as if it would do much good.

soundevenfruity Tue 15-Oct-13 12:30:32

Got chatting to a mother who lives in another borough not far from a very good church school. The distance for non church goers is minuscule so they were doing a foundation place but even for those they were right on the edge of last year catchment area. Even though the rules state that place at the nursery doesn't guarantee anything she was told that without it she could forget about a place in reception. So they moved him to the school nursery even though hours were inconvenient. Then she helped at the school nursery twice a week and they gave donations to the school. And voila! They got enough points to earn a place in reception.

Erebus Tue 15-Oct-13 12:31:05

No, Farewell, I would doubt, not for a second, that such parents would give a pygmies about the 'morality' of what they've done; the 'system' allows them, legally, to game it, so they do.

They do not care necessarily about 'the relationship' between themselves and the Head, they care about a level 6 SATS result. And, it could be argued that under some circumstances the Head is rather pleased to have a school at least half full of wealthy, MC, school-ready DC who will make their results look great.

You don't see many Heads of 'super-selective' grammars campaigning vociferously to find ways of making the 11+ transparent and fair; they often want the offspring of savvy, sharp-elbowed parents willing to do whatever it takes to get their DC in; ditto many religious based schools.

My cards on the table? I rented in the catchment of the school I wanted DS to go to in order to secure his place; however it was our only home (in the UK) and we have subsequently sold abroad to buy locally so we would still 'get in' in this house as we did in the renter. I am a bit grateful for the fact there is a way for me to 'buy' my DSs a good education without 'fair banding', lotteries etc. We are in leafy Hampshire, not London, but we couldn't afford private. And yes, I know of the 'ghost' renters- the town-house we rented was actually the 'insurance' home for its owners to get their own DC into the desirable school, come the day as their much bigger, nicer house was outside the catchment but they were dobbed by someone!!

But I entirely understand that I wouldn't feel that way if I was a loser in the system!

jojo28 Tue 15-Oct-13 12:42:07

Well despite two families moving back to their real homes over the summer holidays and the head teacher reporting this to the admissions team the council maintain that legally the parents applications are still valid. I think I speak for most of the parents who were affected by Camden's maladministration this year in saying we are not interested in seeing school places removed. It is too late for that and we would not wish the children involved who through no fault of their own would be effected adversly. We are more interested in preventing this from happening as frequently as it does and raising awareness about how this type of behaviour undermines the whole school system not just the individual honest applicants who lose out year after year.

justadad4 Tue 15-Oct-13 13:15:06

People who do this are not part of the local community because they have no qualms about stealing school places from their neighbours.

I know Eleanor Palmer school and it has become a state run prep school for the middle class. To see this you only have to compare its racial mix, number of free-school-meal places etc. with other local primaries and Camden's general population.

The headteacher pays lip-service to the problem but does nothing to discourage it. She would rather have the children of minor celebs attending the school than those of real locals.

prh47bridge Tue 15-Oct-13 13:23:51

It is too late for that

Actually it isn't, at least in terms of the law. Camden is entitled to remove places obtained in this way at least until Christmas. However I agree it would have been far better if the offers had been withdrawn before the start of term.

TPFamily Tue 15-Oct-13 13:47:13

What is so frustrating is the fact that there is so much noise being made about this issue via so many platforms yet the council flatly refuses to acknowledge what the local community is saying, let alone enter into a public dialogue which addresses this on-going problem.

I'm glad that the Evening Standard have picked up the story, highlighting it further, but where is the response? I'd like to hear from the council and from the people who have worked the system in the way described.

You know who you are. Defend your actions.

And I don't mean people like Erebus who rent near a good school to secure a place but have NO OTHER ADDRESS IN THE LOCAL AREA, I mean the people whose actual, mortgaged (or not) homes are only a couple of streets further away from their temporary addresses.

These are the people who cause division in local communities and the council gives tacit legitimacy to their actions. The councillors hide behind faceless bureaucracy, and the parents who've worked the system think they've done nothing wrong and are only doing the best for their kids.

Let's hear from some of them for a change, not just the outraged families who've had their kids' places at their local schools usurped. We can probably expect to wait for a very long time before we hear anything though!

Farewelltoarms Tue 15-Oct-13 14:06:34

I think to be fair to the head of EP it does sound like she supported the families who'd missed out on a place rather than those who'd got one dubiously, but I could be wrong.

I completely agree that people who do this have no sense of community, but I'd expect them to have a sense of shame. Not shame in having done the wrong thing morally, but social shame, the shame of being aware that everyone knows who you are, what you have done and are judging you because of it. I wouldn't do what they've done in the first place, but had I done so, I'd really worry that my child's time at school would be compromised as a consequence. Schools are really gossipy places. I'd worry that the lack of playdate/party invitations was perhaps a result of my dishonesty.

And jeez, is EP really so bloody marvellous? I'm sure it's a great school, but really if these parents would just put a bit of their evidently considerable efforts and energies into supporting their child, then I'm sure their SATs results would be the same.

soundevenfruity Tue 15-Oct-13 14:17:10

OMG, Farewelltoarms, is it really so??? Parents annoyed that somebody got in "the wrong way" would boycott their child? That's dreadful. So much for community spirit.
Disclaimer: not renting, just strategically placing schools on the form hoping for the best. Or going private until year 2 when everybody just moves into shires.

Farewelltoarms Tue 15-Oct-13 14:37:02

I'm not saying that people would boycott a child from a party because of it, I'm saying that if I were the swindling parent I might feel paranoid that this was the case.

I don't think any other parents would punish the child directly. But it might subconsciously influence them in their behaviour. If my best friend's kid failed to get a place in the school, and I knew someone else had led to this directly, then I might find myself less inclined to encourage a friendship between our children even without thinking it through. The 10 children who didn't get places had been in the nursery so some strong friendships had probably already been made.

Whether or not there is any changed behaviour towards the interlopers is almost irrelevant, it's the perception that there might be that would compromise my experience of the school as a parent. It all just leaves such a sour taste about something, a child's first few years in school, that should be so sweet.

Erebus Tue 15-Oct-13 14:41:23

Whilst the 'boycotting' thing doesn't sound 'nice', sound, I think one might ponder that why is it acceptable for a DC to entirely benefit from their family's duplicity, their wielding of wealth or power, to the very real detriment and loss of another DC's chances, but it's considered completely unacceptable for a DC to have to live by the undesirable consequences of a parent's behaviour?

It's like it's completely OK for the DC to reap the positive rewards of this gamesmanship but god forbid, cop any of the fallout. The child has benefited by being a full paid-up member of that family but should be treated like a neutral, innocent bystander once the family gets what it wants.

This, surely, is the 'social penalty'.

I am not 'condoning' excluding a DC, incidentally, merely pondering that life lesson about actions having consequences, this being the real world etc, one where a genuine school applicant has lost their place and thus may be enduring quite a negative experience as a result!

soundevenfruity Tue 15-Oct-13 15:20:24

Consequences should address the behaviour of a particular person because you want them to be responsible for their behaviour. How punishing 4 year old would work in this situation? How could they influence their parents? I think it's sinister to make children responsible for their parents.

soundevenfruity Tue 15-Oct-13 15:21:52

It absolutely doesn't matter how you call boycotting. Social penalty doesn't make it more palatable.

PennyHerrzell Tue 15-Oct-13 15:33:33

Is there any appetite for campaigning for the "over half of London boroughs, 16 in total, which do not have a rule against “additional renting” in their admissions code", to get something in the pan London admissions arrangements for the coming year?

Are there any Council news departments following this link? Here is something easy and community pleasing to do - it will cost nothing to change the wording and will send a strong message to parents that this is behaviour is unfair and unacceptable.

Erebus Tue 15-Oct-13 15:34:40

Indeed, the true 'consequence' would be that DC being kicked out of the school. A bit of 'party-invite oversight' might be considered a lesser evil.

As someone else said, maybe it wouldn't be blatant- it might just be that a 'legitimate' parent didn't particularly want her DC to mix with the DC of parents who had the personality type that didn't bat an eyelid at such behaviour? Is that 'sinister' or sensible?

FWIW I've read outrage here on MN in the past at the suggestion that a poor little DC should have their school place taken from there, however dodgy their means of obtaining it as it'd be so unfair on that DC... never mind how unfair it might be on the DC who lost out on what should have been their legitimate place as a result! This behaviour isn't a victimless crime.

KentishThyme Tue 15-Oct-13 15:55:52

I'm not for punishing the children.
But I don't see the problem with the child losing their place should their parent's deception be discovered.
Kids are adaptable and non-judgmental to new situations. The 10 EP nursery children who had to find new schools are a fine testament to this.
As a parent you are responsible for the happiness and well-being of your children at this age. Knowing that they will have their place taken away if you cheat should surely be the ultimate deterrent?
A couple of the cheating families relinquished places at an equally outstanding school nearby. They would have legitimately been in the catchment area for this school from their 'real' homes. How simple life would have been! Ironically none of the kids they have stepped over ever had this school as an option as they live 100 metres too close to EP.
These families weren't bothered about our kids losing their school places, so I don't see why I should be concerned about them losing theirs.

soundevenfruity Tue 15-Oct-13 16:23:23

I am talking about excluding a child from normal activities because you do not approve of what their parents did.

tiggytape Tue 15-Oct-13 16:33:48

nicer house was outside the catchment but they were dobbed by someone!!

Good. As prh says, it is so much easier all round if they lose their places before allocations day (i.e. the council put a big cross through their rented address and fill in the mortgaged address instead) or if they lose it at the start of term - but if they have to lose the place later then so be it.

As for social exclusion - I have heard of this but not as a revenge tactic more solidarity for their friends who have lost out to cheaters and the upset they've seen it cause.
If all the children living in the same road and going to the same pre school get an Infants' place except one then that's just bad luck / big birth year etc. But if they find out a parent in the new Infants' class rented to get that place before moving away again, they are likely to be very very angery about it. All over summer they would have seen at least one friend devestated by not getting a place and maybe going through appeals or waiting on a list and checking their position every week. The child of the cheaters in not to blame but is hardly likely to be included in the playdates and parties.

tiggytape Tue 15-Oct-13 16:37:35

And I agree about losing the places too in terms of disruption to the child of the cheating parents. It is very upsetting for a child to be kicked out of a school they love and it is very upsetting for a child to be related to people that all the other parents are furious with. But if you cheat to get a place you are setting your child up to be that child - the one who could get made to leave their new school at Christmas or the one who other parents are indirectly angry with.

PennyHerrzell Tue 15-Oct-13 16:47:44

Well done to Joshi Hermann and the Evening Standard for an excellent piece.

How annoying that the parents who did this could not be named and shamed. Rumour has it they didn't want their kids exposed to any media attention so they preemptively called the PCC.

The important thing is to ensure that this loophole is closed in every London borough. I have already heard of three people organising themselves into rentals close to their preferred school for next year's round. Could the next headline please be "Admissions authority bureaucrats finally get something right"? Newsworthy indeed.

Primafacie Tue 15-Oct-13 17:36:57

OP I generally agree with you, but I would point out that some of the boroughs you mention as having better policies in fact have similar issues. I live in Merton, and this near our nearest school's catchment was less than 120 metres because parents use temporary renting to get in. This year they had well over 400 applications for less than 10 non-sibling places, which I think makes them more "selective" than any private school.

Unsurprisingly, we were not offered a place in any local state school -although they did offer us a place at a school in a different town 3 miles away, with no transport arrangement. hmm

DH and I have campaigned with our MP, local authority, planning authority and local councillor for education to get the admission arrangements changed, but there doesn't seem to be any real will to introduce meaningful change - by which I mean not only expanding some schools, but also putting a stop to the "grandfathering" system (i.e. out of catchment siblings having priority over in-catchment non-siblings).

I think this system is deeply flawed, morally wrong and economically indefensible, and leads to erosion of our community.

PatPig Tue 15-Oct-13 17:52:52

meh the whole system is bollocks. It costs well over a million quid to buy a house in catchment of this school.

Am I supposed to shed a tear for these poor deprived parents?

Erebus Tue 15-Oct-13 17:53:18

IMHO- I actually believe that a DC should have to leave a school at the end of that KS if their parents move out of catchment if the people who buy their place want the school place. That way DCs stay local to their schools- and the moving DC gets a place in their new local school, too.

Whilst some ^^ might cry 'Unfair!' on the poor DC, the reality is that parents would be far less likely to attempt catchment stunts if they knew the consequences. A bit of missing out on parties isn't going to be enough to deter them really, is it? A possible saving of 7 years x £4-8k per year?

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

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 [[]]

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.

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


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.

nlondondad Tue 15-Oct-13 23:43:34

The offers at Tufnell Park happened because (its an Islington School) Islington added some extra places at the school which has spare physical capacity.

Wibblypiglikesbananas Wed 16-Oct-13 00:02:40

Erebus - sadly, I think you're right there. Everyone out for themselves and all that. Partly human nature, partly pure greed and selfishness. Not nice though, either way.

keepsmiling12345 Wed 16-Oct-13 08:36:44

It would be fascinating to see the impact if a regulation were imposed which said that if you take up a place at a state primary school in London, you are obliged to walk to school (unless there are exceptional circumstances). Given the catchment areas, population density and numbers of primary schools, no-one would be required to walk more than a mile (and most people less than half a mile)...unless they had rented to secure a school place and then moved away. I know it is hugely simplistic but could solve the school place situation and the "school run" congestion in one fell swoop!

Shootingatpigeons Wed 16-Oct-13 12:54:42

Alien attack except the in our borough firstly the prevalence of schools who select on faith means those who don't go through the motions often can't access any local schools and secondly they have long had a practice of deterring parents by offering them only a school far away. The two undersubscribed schools which are inaccessible and on the edge of the borough were allocated between them over 50 parents who had not made them a preference and almost none of them took up the places, going private, moving, home educating because the journey, often two or three buses and /or long walks, simply isn't feasible. Many already aware they were in black holes had already gone private /moved. This has been their strategy for decades. They just opened a new faith primary school too, with only 10 community admissions........

keepsmiling12345 Wed 16-Oct-13 13:33:45

I'm in the same borough shooting so I appreciate the difficulties, especially the prevalence of faith schools. My DD's school "catchment" shrank to 300metres this year...partly because of impact of bulge classes in previous years (so 39 siblings out of the 60places).some of those siblings no longer live within walking distance of the school. It isnt even renting for a place. People secure a school place and then sell their house and move to a bigger one in another area of the borough so they aren't doing anything illegal. My DD's school will expand to a three form entry which I support but eventually the same thing will happen...until you impose some kind of limit on sibling priority or maximum distance from school, catchments will inexorably decrease in size year on year (assuming no change in school attractiveness, of course)...

newgirl Wed 16-Oct-13 13:39:01

in our area we were asked to provide 4 pieces of evidence showing we lived in the application address - two weeks before end of summer term before dd started - with 4 days to do it.

evidence included where taxes are paid, where doc is registered etc - two children left in first 3 weeks of y7 which i think may mean their places were withdrawn.

at least this means that someone renting needs to have moved every piece of evidence to their new address which might help?

newgirl Wed 16-Oct-13 13:39:49

it was the same for all new families btw not just us! sibling families were not asked but a new rule is about to come in (its an academy now) saying sibs have to live within a certain catchment

jojo28 Wed 16-Oct-13 14:12:23

Shooting - I know about the problems with faith schools in Richmond. I assume you know about the Fairer Admissions Campaign The greatest unfairness in out system at present is faith school admissions. We were affected this year in Camden as well by Kentish Town Primary unable to give 9 siblings places because they had awarded most places to church goers and yet Camden's Andy Knowles is allowed to get away with saying church school admissions has no effect on admissions in Camden! I have always said my children are at a great disadvantage in their schooling - their parents are not religious and they won't screw over their neighbours to bag them a school place!
We all have to keep chipping away - we deserve a better system the current one is so divisive.
newgirl - that is very interesting may I ask what area you live in? Two of the families at Eleanor Palmer moved back to their real homes before the autumn term even began! Camden say that it's fine because they were living in the address they applied from. It is farcical.

SDhopeful Wed 16-Oct-13 18:48:51

AlienAttack - that is a brilliant idea! I wish there were creative minds like your making policy! Yes there would be bleats, but what a paradigm shift that would be!

SDhopeful Wed 16-Oct-13 18:50:28

Also think it is perfectly reasonable to restrict siblings to a certain distance.

tiggytape Wed 16-Oct-13 19:54:06

As long as you include siblings who live outside that distance but who have not moved house between getting child number 1 and child number 2 a place

Some people don't get a local school allocated despite wanting one. They get forced to attend one 2 miles away or more. It would be a double penalty to those people to then not be able to get the siblings a place

So siblings within a set catchment plus siblings whose families who are outside that area but not because they moved further away. And this should especially be the case at secondary schools where sibling priority is much less of a necessity.

SDhopeful Wed 16-Oct-13 20:10:56

tiggytape - agreed -this policy is being refined grin

keepsmiling12345 Wed 16-Oct-13 20:27:52

Thanks SD , I was hoping someone would recognise the brilliance of its simplicity smile Seriously, i know it is simplistic and i agree with tiggytape that it would have to be implemented in a way that didn't doubly penalise anyone who had had to accept a school further away for reasons outside their control. But somehow we need to find a radical solution. More of the same will simply deliver ever decreasing catchments even if councils tighten up "permanent residence" criteria. (By the way, I am aghast that Camden can have got to 2013 still allowing such a loose interpretation of the criteria that someone could secure a place and the. move back to the family home before term starts with impunity.)

newgirl Wed 16-Oct-13 20:41:56


I th

newgirl Wed 16-Oct-13 20:42:49


I think if sibs at same address from application that would be fine

pyrrah Wed 16-Oct-13 21:42:02

It wouldn't work...

Working parents often don't take their children to or from school but use child-minders or private nurseries that run after-school/breakfast clubs.

Parents who couldn't walk the distance would either develop a back problem or travel to a local childminder.

keepsmiling12345 Wed 16-Oct-13 22:21:40

I'm a single working parent and use a multitude of after school clubs, child minders etc. We/they all walk to school.

But you're probably right. Someone who cheats the current system would presumably go to the lengths you suggest and drive to a local childminder to get around the regulations...

As someone up thread said, has society really gone so mad that it is acceptable to think up clever ruses to maintain a place at a state primary school whilst wishing to live back in your bigger house outside of catchment...?

straggle Wed 16-Oct-13 22:32:11

AlienAttack, like the idea but how do you police it? You can tell a school off for not meeting the targets in its travel plan but tailing 420+ children x 1200 community primaries in London as they walk to school is a job for MI High ...

keepsmiling12345 Wed 16-Oct-13 22:41:21

I do agree straggle. It may not be the best use of our security services or the police force to tail suspicious cars dropping children off outside schools! But perhaps there is something about making clear what the ideal situation is; children walking to their local primary school. (And yes, I do know the is a lot of inherent unfairness about premium for property within catchment for sought after schools but I'm deliberately not addressing that here...just trying to see if a single "regulation" could make a difference. )

Anyway, I've probably exhausted the suggestion so will let others get back to the main points of the thread.

BranchingOut Thu 17-Oct-13 07:41:47

I do see Erebus' point. At the point when we bought our house, located to accommodate my husband's long working hours in a job which only really occurs in a specific part of the City, we did not want children. However, we then had our child...

We began looking at schools quite early and were pleasantly surprised that there were good primary schools nearby. However, we soon realised that we were cut off from most by distance and from others, some of our nearest schools, by faith - the faith schools in question having strict criteria around church attendance (we are a dual faith family and were just not prepared to go through the charade of church attendance when it was something that one of us had no belief in whatsoever).

We began looking into moving and were very close to offering on houses near to one of the most popular primaries around in North London. You can imagine the house prices! But then we were actually turned off by the frenzied competitive atmosphere and began looking outside London, where our house is cheaper and we are now likely to go private. So although it might be easy to criticise that decision on moral grounds, that educational option is actually open to more families than a place at that 'state' primary. Our commutes are a bit longer, but it is the choice we have made.

My view is that there are choices open to families and they don't have to involve fraudulent applications.

jojo28 Thu 17-Oct-13 08:18:54

Alienattack - I like we are talking about possible solutions! Sadly in our situation the cut off distance is so small that even the cheats real homes are only about 250 meters from the school! That is still outside the ever shrinking cut off. To get round it they rented 100 meters away. I think part of their justification for temporary renting is that they feel EP is their nearest school so they feel entitled to go there. But sadly particularly in densely populated cities it doesn't work like that, or you may have a church school next door to you but because you are a muslim you won't be at the top of list for a place. The whole system is unfair but once parents start gaming the system it compounds the unfairness and messes up planning for future school places. Instead of trying to game it lets change it!

minipie Thu 17-Oct-13 08:32:20

I live in a different London borough with a similarly postage stamp sized (and shrinking) catchment area for the local Outstanding primaries, and daft property prices as a result.

One local school has recently introduced the rule that, if you have been in your home less than a year at time of application, you must show evidence that you have severed all ties to your previous home (ie sold it/terminated the lease). This is to get round the "rent a second home" gaming.

However, this does nothing to address the far bigger issue which is parents who get their first child in (legitimately by buying a house close to the school) but then move further away and can then get children 2, 3, 4 in on sibling priority. Personally I think sibling priority should only apply if you have not moved address since child 1 got into the school.

All of these issues however pale in comparison with the spectacular unfairness and discrimination of faith schools. I still cannot quite believe that we have state institutions, funded by all taxpayers, which are allowed to discriminate on the basis of religion. Can you imagine if there was a state hospital which only treated Catholics? Or if the local firemen would only attend fires if you were a regular St Olaf's attender? People would be up in arms.

SDhopeful Thu 17-Oct-13 08:41:02

Completely agree about faith schools - they have no place in the maintained sector, shockingly divisive.

straggle Thu 17-Oct-13 10:01:59

I think politicians have let us down so badly by obscuring the debate on faith schools. One in three primaries are CofE or Catholic (do you remember Alan Johnson trying to get an agreement on 25% open admissions?!). Now free schools are meant to be 50% inclusive but they aren't, if you look at the intake in the new Jewish or Muslim free schools. As faith schools they will still only appeal to one section of the community. Of course, free schools are a tiny proportion of the whole but for politicans to sit back and say 'look how we're making faith schools inclusive! but don't ask any more questions!' makes me want to throw pies in their smug faces. Meanwhile religious selection in existing schools affects many more pupils.

BranchingOut Thu 17-Oct-13 10:16:24

Agree 100% regarding faith schools. Maybe the system used to seem fair enough when there were sufficient community places, or when families were less aware of league tables/inspection ratings. But it effectively doubles the choices of families who follow a particular faith, as they have a chance of a faith school place and probably a community school place too.

A family where one parent is C of E and the other is agnostic might be willing to attend church for a school place. However, in my situation where I could describe myself as CofE, but my husband is of a completely different faith altogether, it would be entirely wrong to put in the two years of regular church attendance required to get into the top-of-the-league-tables school which was just around the corner from my old address.

However, our local schools where we have now moved to are both CofE schools, but they take everyone who lives in the local area, which strangely enough seems a lot more consistent with the Christian faith.....!

If anyone is interested in this issue I think that the British Humanist Association campaigns against faith schools.

straggle Thu 17-Oct-13 10:34:11

It's really complex - the church owns a lot of buildings. Historically they helped expand the education sector in this country. There's a tradition and the schools themselves provide a good education if you are eligible. But new Catholic and Church of England schools have opened or been rebuilt on council land too. It's a complete policy failure to pretend problems of unequal access and segregation don't exist, and even divert money for more faith schools, at a time when mainstream places are in shortage.

tiggytape Thu 17-Oct-13 10:46:26

Historically they helped expand the education sector in this country

Historically they were the educational sector in this country.
The government only decided to educate the poor long after the church decided to and therefore state schools were built to fill in the gaps where a faith school didn't already exist.

PatPig Thu 17-Oct-13 10:59:41

The ENTIRE state education sector is gamed by middle class parents. Grammar schools - tutor. Church schools - pretend to pray. Comprehensives - move into catchment in time.

Campaigning about faith schools without recognising that the entire state admissions system is grossly unfair and unequal is absurd.

FreckledLeopard Thu 17-Oct-13 11:17:44

I used to live down the road from Eleanor Palmer. DD went to a school nearby (where Ed Miliband's children now attend).

Whilst I appreciate the unfairness of it all, from what I read in the Standard, what these parents have done is not illegal and does not contradict the admissions procedures. If the strict letter of the admissions process for Camden allows you to rent within the catchment and move out again - which appears to be the case - then I can't see that the sharp-elbowed have done anything wrong.

There will always be pushy parents who want the best for their children and who will jump over every hurdle to do so. Morality is fine but often goes out the window when its your own offspring's future that hangs in the balance.

I'm afraid I couldn't get het up about this, nor would I ostracise a parent who has exercised their right to ensure the best for their child. Life is unfair. Either lobby Camden or your MP etc, but giving the parents or their children the cold shoulder seems to be a case of misplaced anger IMO.

JakeBullet Thu 17-Oct-13 11:21:19

Patpig is totally correct.....if you have the money and the nous you can manipulate the system to your advantage.

My DS is in a Catholic school ....because they had a space when we moved into the area and nobody else did. On the whole I think parents have little choice, they can express a preference but unless they have the wherewithal to manipulate the system then it is very much luck of the draw.

straggle Thu 17-Oct-13 11:25:09

tiggytape no, not exactly - interesting history here. The CofE controlled many schools through the National Society but there were non-conformist schools too. It started to change in 1870 when school boards were set up and lots of new council schools were opened. But both CofE and RC churches were offered 50% building grants and doubled the number of schools, then lobbied for and over the decades obtained up to 90% capital funding from the state. Some of the CofE schools became effectively council schools and voluntary controlled but none of the RC ones. Now we have the problem in a multi-cultural and/or secular society where the CofE and RC still running schools in areas where most pupils are of other faiths.

Patpig it is just one part of the problem, I agree, but it affects a third of primary schools in particular, whereas grammar schools come into play at secondary level.

minipie Thu 17-Oct-13 11:25:15

I recognise that the church historically provided most if not all of the education in the uk, I also know the history of how church schools were incorporated into the state system.

However regardless of the history of the schools, the fact is that they are now funded by taxpayers. History doesn't justify allowing them to prioritise those of a particular faith.

PatPig Thu 17-Oct-13 11:31:34

It's not really about primary schools though is it? The real competition for resources, where the game gets serious, is at secondary schools. The wrong secondary school can destroy a child.

And grammar schools don't exist in most areas, it's finding your way around the admissions procedures for so-called 'comprehensive' schools that is the key for most people.

straggle Thu 17-Oct-13 11:34:07

And the whole problem of catchment areas becoming minuscule is compounded by the fact that LAs have had little control over admissions since the Greenwich ruling twenty years ago which decreed that councils could not reserve places for pupils in their ares. Very few schools have defined 'catchment areas' with boundaries. The vast majority have distance as a criteria. The government has banned random allocation in LAs. Schools still have to be local and children have to walk to school.

Back to the OP. You can't stop parents moving in or out of areas. You can't have a residence test that discriminates against families that have to move due to family breakdown, eviction, rental agreements, etc. How do you crack down on multiple property owners/renters?

straggle Thu 17-Oct-13 11:34:31


straggle Thu 17-Oct-13 11:39:45

PatPig the thread is about primaries. The complication here is people don't really live where they say they live.

Mintyy Thu 17-Oct-13 11:40:47

It is trickier with primaries, but the automatic sibling policy really should be scrapped for secondary school. I just can't see any good reason for retaining it.

I live near to a hugely oversubscribed school which gives places by lottery, but even then siblings get priority! So one child gets lucky and then their 5 siblings follow. It is crazy and indefensible.

Shootingatpigeons Thu 17-Oct-13 11:54:36

patpig the debate here is about primary schools and parents renting to get a place and then moving away. What ever the drawbacks of the different systems surely the principle that every child should be able to attend the school local to where they live and therefore have the benefit of the schools serving and being part of the local community, having the most humane commute and their friends living locally is a sound one. It is especially so at primary school, a time when getting a child and often younger siblings to distant schools can actually break a mothers ability to cope, especially if they work.

It is completely unfair and discriminatory that if you are not in a position to pray that your only choice will be a distant school. In this borough we have some of the most socially exclusive faith schools in the country, one has 1% FSM and it neighbours a community school with 10%, which is more representative of the local community. The school drop off at the faith school is wall to wall 4WDs, indistinguishable from a private school, whilst at the community school it is in the main children being walked to school, the catchment for 4form entry is down to 400m. At 401m the parents who didn't baptise by 6 months (which excludes a lot of devout Eastern European parents because that is not the custom there) have only the choice of a school 3 miles and two bus rides away. For the 4 year old that is 40 minutes at each end of the day on a route march between bus stops and for the mother with younger siblings it is almost 3 hours, and playing with schoolfriends after school simply not feasible, nor is having two working parents. That is a situation replicated in four out of the 6 suburban centres within the borough, and in one of them the Council, with a leader who is part of the Catholic establishment, gave the best site for a new school to the Catholic Church in return for 10 community places. At allocations there were around 30 parents between 100m and 500m of the new school without a place, even at a distant school.

I am not against faith schools, since they exist historically I see no reason why parents who are devout or culturally of a faith should not have the option of joining the faith schools communities but not at the expense of local children. The London CofE diocese has actually come out and said that it believes it's schools should be serving their community but they are toothless in the face of governors who want to preserve, even extend, exclusivity. Exclusivity and expansion of faith schools when there is a massive shortage of school places is the most absurd of all the unfairnesses.

There is plenty of data that demonstrates that schools that select on faith are socially and ethnically exclusive and less likely than a community school to reflect the social mix of the community it is in (grammar schools too of course and they too should be addressing the issue)

jojo28 yes, do know about the Fair Admissions Campaign (smile)

PatPig Thu 17-Oct-13 12:14:53

But again that's really not a faith school thing.

And faith schools are not necessarily socially and ethnically exclusive.

You are looking at this the wrong way around.

'Good' school in most cases means 'socially exclusive'.

There are some 'bad' faith schools, which nobody wants to go to. These are not socially exclusive.

It's not about faith, it's about competition for a scarce resource, namely a 'good' school, by which is generally meant 'one with an intake of bright, middle-class pupils'.

Any school that becomes oversubscribed is socially exclusive and the exclusion process will inevitably favour middle class parents. This is true whether the school is faith, comprehensive or grammar.

It doesn't matter. Faith schools have a slightly easier route to becoming socially exclusive if/when they become popular, but it's not unique to them.

In London the competition for resources is most intense because of population density, demographic changes, pushier-than-usual parents and other factors. Getting rid of faith schools might change the battlegrounds but it doesn't change the war - you can still be sent to a 40 minute journey to school without any faith schools in your area because of others out-competing you for a particular school.

straggle Thu 17-Oct-13 12:32:35

My local school's catchment has shrunk to about a fifth of its size since becoming 'Outstanding'. It was still good before. Families are researching schools online and moving to the area fully informed, including from overseas or being promoted at work. Ofsted ratings, SATs results, etc. have become so important, and the government wants to have even more 'diversity' with more academy chains operating primaries and more free schools. Not all primaries have nurseries or wrap-around care attached, so that also differentiates them. Will the anxiety subside? No, it will just get worse. Choice, and not getting it, makes you dissatisfied. Shortages make you anxious. More diversity + shortages = panic, cheating and inequality.

jojo28 a community school with only one-form entry is a rarity in the LA where I live. This is compounding the problem, especially if it is surrounded by other tiny schools, faith or otherwise.l Is it possible for it to expand?

SDhopeful Thu 17-Oct-13 13:31:47

Straggle makes a good point about research online. The problem has increased exponentially because not only can people more easily get info about schools, they feel they have to now, for that reason!
The suggestion that sibling priority in primaries should only apply if the family hasn't moved seems really sensible. That way, families are not automatically penalised for annual variances in the catchment, but if they move, they do so in the knowledge that they revert to the normal non-sibling priority.

Shootingatpigeons Thu 17-Oct-13 14:30:08

Patpig You are coming at it the wrong way round, if you come at it from the point of view that every child should have priority in access to a local school, good or bad, then at least a lot fewer will have such ridiculous journeys, or be forced into home schooling etc. The Faith Schools around here in prioritising faith applicants from further away are excluding the local community. I get that if they were bad in some areas they would be unsubscribed, I come from the North East where teh Catholic Schools that have long served immigrant communities continue to serve that function, and indeed not just the immigrant community but the local community. However pressure on places in London is such that even faith schools that were bad a few years ago are now oversubscribed, better to get a place at a faith school and work from the inside to improve it than to have no place or a place at a school you cannot access.

As I said I have no problems with faith schools if they are a choice but around here with a third of the schools exclusive faith schools, two thirds in some suburbs, they have become a vehicle for gaining advantage and of social and ethnic exclusion, and if you look at the national figures that is happening more often than not.

Shootingatpigeons Thu 17-Oct-13 18:15:54

I would add that the London challenge has gone a long way to unhook that connection between middle class catchments and outstanding schools, now OFSTED's focus is on the poor pupils who are underperforming in those schools in leafy suburbs.

jojo28 Thu 17-Oct-13 18:56:02

Something I'd like to address is the preoccupation of the middle classes with outstanding schools! People far more knowledgeable than myself have written about this - where's Fiona Millar when you need her? A great deal of research suggests that children from (for want of a better word) middle class families do well in most school settings. It is the values about learning that are instilled in children within the home, how they are supported by their parents from day one to get the most out of their schooling that makes the difference. So naturally when you get a school like EP where the majority of children are from these types of homes you get a school that does very well in SATS and Ofsteds and then the madness begins..... Last year a temporary renter swindled my friend out of his school place. He got offered the school in Camden that no one wants the school that middle class parents roll their eyes at and say over my dead body. Well his children went to the school, he had no choice and guess what? They are happy kids; doing well at the school and thriving.... it's amazing! His family have got right behind the school and the teachers and it's working well for his family, so that now he doesn't think he'd move back to the legendary EP.... this family is my inspiration they have moved beyond the neuroticism and fear and realised that 90% of the success your child achieves at school is down to your families attitude and values. Help to create a good local school - go there, get involved, create something for your community. What you are modeling for your children is priceless - you are embodying all those things people like to pay lip service to but rarely actually put into practice. Caring about everyone in your community, embracing diversity, building a fairer society, respecting and understanding people from different walks of life.... It always makes me laugh when you see celebs & stars banging on about how they want all of these things and peace on earth but as soon as they have kids what do they do? Pack them off to private schools or in the case of Blair, Clegg and David Milliband selective state schools, it speaks volumes about their sincerity and outlook on life.

Shootingatpigeons Thu 17-Oct-13 21:03:59

Good post jojo

straggle Fri 18-Oct-13 00:04:57

Fiona Millar is so sharp. Great article from her on fair admissions here.

Farewelltoarms Fri 18-Oct-13 13:21:34

I properly love Fiona Millar, Straggle. She is a great riposte to anyone citing Blair, Abbott, Harman etc and their hypocrisy. She sent her children to not particularly desirable local schools, sticking with a primary that went into special measures, chairing the governors and helping to improve it for her local community.

And as Jojo says, as far as I know her children have all done fantastically (I don't know her but know people who do and I think her kids have all gone onto Oxbridge and all that).

She is spot on about admissions. Community comprehensives, in London at least, are never fully comprehensive as so many of the middle-classes are off to faith schools, privates, selectives, so that the schools that are left have a disproportionate number of some of the harder-to-reach children. And often do incredibly well by the full range of their pupils.

SDhopeful Fri 18-Oct-13 13:28:11

Disappointing if her DC have chosen Oxbridge (appreciate that at that level it is the child's choice, not their parents, so give FM and AC a cop-oiut clause) because would surely be better for bright kids to go to other unis to help theri standard rise (to apply the same logic FM applies to schools...)

PatPig Fri 18-Oct-13 13:51:24

Shooting@pigeons, a 'local' school can easily become very exclusive due to demand. In that case people who live close by can be excluded from it and commute a long distance.

Stopping abuse of the system by the people in the OP's article only widens the catchment by a very small distance. It doesn't change the fact that people are going to say 'but it's my local school' when the nearest school is a good one (and distance isn't really the issue here - there will be other schools in near distance, we are talking about London here), and desperately look for something else when it's a bad one.

According to the DFE website there are 19 primary schools within a mile of Eleanor Palmer.

The stats are here for Camden:

On page 67

The most oversubscribed (the 'good' schools) were:

Emmanuel - 170 applications for 15 places (half the intake, the other half is on faith)
Fitzjohn's - 339 applications for 30 places
Fleet - 273 applicants for 30 places
Eleanor Palmer - 235 applicants for 30 places
Christ Church Hampstead - 174 applicants for 27 places

And the least (the 'bad' schools):
Netley - 71 for 60 places
St Alban's - 36 for 30 places
Argyle - 79 for 60 places
Carlton - 94 for 60 places
Brecknock - 99 for 60 places

Becoming a 'good' school is mostly down to random chance, albeit that it is determined by your intake. The most oversubscribed places, which are all single-form entry, have a big advantage in admissions because by taking in only one form it's much easier to attract 30 middle class pupils than 60.

Conversely, the two-form-entry schools are far more likely to be undesirable, because the microclimate of middle class applicants is far less likely to arise by chance (when you have only 30 pupils a year, it's possible to have a good year, some good teaching, some good SAT results, and then wham! you are at the top of the league tables and everyone is applying) when you are taking 60 kids in each year.

Apparently there might be an overall shortage of primary school places in Camden as a whole, but then if you read the comments here where numerous people rejected Carlton:

it seems that a lot of people that claim to have no local school actually did have a local school (Carlton), it just wasn't 'good' enough for them, and so they took whatever steps they felt necessary to find somewhere better, be it go private or whatever else.

'Boo hoo hoo my child can't go to the local school' is very rarely the issue.

It's more 'boo hoo hoo my child can't go to the best school in the area and I won't settle for anything else'.

SDhopeful Fri 18-Oct-13 15:35:27

PatPig - wow - interesting figures! So even the least 'desirable' schools are oversubscribed - what happens to those numerous children whose parents can't afford to go indie - are there undersubscribed schools in neighbouring boroughs?

Farewelltoarms Fri 18-Oct-13 15:41:11

They're not oversubscribed - those figures include those who have put it anywhere on their submissions list i.e. they were all non-first choices.

JustAnotherUserName Fri 18-Oct-13 15:41:53

That doesn't mean - although I know nothing about Camden - that as a whole the borough doesn't have enough places.

If a (hypothetical) borough has 6 schools of 30 places each, and 180 children, then each child will apply to all 6 of those schools and you would get figures such as:

School A, 180 applicants for 30 places.
School B, 180 applicants for 30 places.
School C, 180 applicants for 30 places.
School D, 180 applicants for 30 places.
School E, 180 applicants for 30 places.
School F, 180 applicants for 30 places.

So every school is oversubscribed by a factor of 6, but every child gets a place at one of their preferred schools!

JustAnotherUserName Fri 18-Oct-13 15:53:25

and of course only one of those schools might be desirable for the middle classes good

Shootingatpigeons Fri 18-Oct-13 19:59:57

The FM link was good. She is absolutely right, it is about least worst scenario and I firmly believe that at least with selection on distance no 4 year old is faced with a journey that has a negative impact on their life simply because of their parents faith, or willingness to go through the motions. She is also right that what works for a rural area does not work in inner cities but that faith schools are more of a vehicle of social exclusion than distance was shown by the Guardians analysis

“76% of Catholic primaries and 65% of Catholic secondaries have a smaller proportion of pupils eligible for free school meals than is representative of their postcode This is the case for 63.5% of Church of England primaries and 40% of Church of England secondaries. Non-religious primaries and secondaries are far more likely to mirror the proportion of poor pupils in their postcode – just 47% of non-faith primaries and 29% of non-faith secondaries take a smaller proportion of free school meals than is representative for their postcode.”

In our borough 7 out of the 10 primary schools with the lowest % FSM are faith schools and 9 out of the 10 with the highest are community schools. The FSM data here

Wilfer Fri 18-Oct-13 21:04:51

Thanks to OP for highlighting this. My own London borough is one if the offending ones which makes no attempt to challenge dubious rental activity. I know of a family who rented out their house to move closer to their preferred school AFTER the allocations date and who were issued a place quite early on off the waiting list. I queried this with the council admissions team because my child was very close to the top of the list but moved down as a result of this admission.
Their answer was that they are not required to look any further than whether the family were paying council tax at the new address. The fact that the family still owned a property which they had rented out was not deemed relevant. I asked them whether there was anything to stop me doing something similar and their reply was that there wasn't , but I should be sure to move close by in case someone else 'overtook' us on the waiting list!

They told me that they only look for evidence of registration for council tax and that there is an actual change of address. Whether this is permanent or temporary is not checked in any way.

My child didn't get a place at our preferred school and remains on the waiting list, though I have little hope now that she will be able to move.

I've since heard of several families (not this year ) renting in catchment in my borough so I'm pretty sure it must be a known problem. However it seems that the council admissions team are simply not interested in tackling this.

I can't believe it would be that difficult to do something. Surely the council could ask for a bit more evidence to identify house owners who move to tenancies which seem to have no purpose other than to game the system?

soundevenfruity Fri 18-Oct-13 21:53:32

I am not quite sure what Guardian is implying? That poor people don't go to
church? Or that they are more reluctant to take / unaware of advantage it would give them to get into a good school?

Shootingatpigeons Fri 18-Oct-13 22:17:39

Statistics manifest things rather than implying, though of course they can be manipulated but a healthy does of common sense in interpreting them doesn't come amiss. At a rough guess, awareness of selection criteria is an advantage, then of course the ability to meet them. So if you come from a country where baptism at 6/12 months is not the custom (a common selection criteria in Catholic Schools) then you are at a disadvantage, add in that if for illness or for reasons of gathering family from disparate places it gets delayed. Then of course there is the increased difficulty of getting to church every week where a single or both parents work long hours / shifts / weekends / or are just struggling to cope. My mother taught pupils whose mothers struggled to get the clothes washed (one of her signposts to disadvantage and the need for help). No danger of those children in an oversubscribed faith school....

tethersend Fri 18-Oct-13 22:45:16

I live in Tower Hamlets, who last year introduced defined catchment areas.

In catchment siblings and in-catchment children now take priority over out of catchment siblings; the tie breaker is those furthest from an alternative school.

VERY complicated, but seemingly very effective- I say that as someone who lives on the border of two catchment areas; effectively putting us out of catchment for our nearest schools. We were then able to apply for a school we had not considered, and got a place. It's great. Tower Hamlets, like Camden, has many very good schools.

I would have liked to see the tie breaker being random allocation rather than furthest alternative school, but I don't think LEAs can use this as the main tie breaker? (Correct me if I'm wrong)

It's explained here much more clearly.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Fri 18-Oct-13 23:54:51

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

PatPig Sat 19-Oct-13 00:23:22

SDhopeful you need to look at

"Furthest child offered on the offer date in miles"

In 2011 and 2012, these schools in Camden were undersubscribed (fewer parents placed the school higher on their preference list than all other schools that they didn't get in to):

Our Lady's
St Alban's
St Aloysius Infants
St Dominic's (2012 only)
St Michael's Camden Town
St Patrick's (2012 only)

Some of the other religious schools may also have been effectively undersubscribed, it's not clear. But it looks like around 2 applicants (preferences) per place is the cut off - less than that and everyone can get that school, higher than that and there will be a catchment area.

In terms of 'local schools for local people', within one mile of Eleanor Palmer, you could definitely get into:


and possibly St Dominic's and St Patrick's

jojo28 Sat 19-Oct-13 10:02:16

Seeing that you are so fascinated in my personal circumstances, perhaps looking for a way to justify not an immoral choice of feigning religion but I would say a hypocritical, cowardly and fearful choice, lets talk specifics:

1.My assumption that my second child would get a place into Eleanor Palmer was not fanciful. It was based on what the head teacher and secretary were telling myself and other parents when we were attending the nursery. Unknown to us they had not factored in the fact that the nursery charge and parents renting temporarily to get a school place had skewed the numbers.
2.My first child did get into Eleanor Palmer and was there for 5 years. He struggled academically for the entire time and in my opinion with the exception of one teacher he was not supported properly. He had a very low opinion of his abilities and poor confidence. The school kept shifting the blame on to him and in year 4 he did not go up by the required number of levels and I was not informed of this. In year 5 we tried to get the school to put him into ‘school action’ but they were not happy to do that even though they were predicting he would not leave year 6 with the expected levels. We had him assessed by an Ed Psych who discovered he had dyslexia and processing problems. The schools response was still to refuse extra help, as he was not considered to be deserving enough. We decided to put him in a private school called the Academy in Hampstead with classes of 15 and purporting to be good for children with learning difficulties. It was a disaster! Mainly because my child and my family do like diversity and you do not get that in a private school and it became clear that the school had little idea about how to deal with a child with Dyslexia.
3.My eldest is now at Acland Burghley our local comprehensive and is extremely happy and thriving.
4.My heart was not set on EP because of our experience there but when you fill the form in you have to put in order what are your best chances and because we do live extremely closely to EP it kind of screws our chances for other local schools. We fall outside the catchment for Torriano, Kentish Town (which I would not want because I am an atheist) and Tufnell Park. Plus it was easy - my childcare and local friendships were based around a school I have been involved with for the past 9 years. Sure enough we got offered a place at Brecknock School on York way, not really local but not awful either and we were very impressed by the school’s ethos and parents and were prepared to make it work. However we got offered a place at Tufnell Park at the last minute, which was one of our original choices. It is a wonderful school, we can walk there and other children on our street attend. After the initial settling in period my son is very happy and we feel very lucky to have bagged a place at a great school.
5.My fury has never been about my son not getting a place at EP. It is about the parents and the system that undermines the state school system for all of us through apathy, neuroticism and lets face it snobbery. It is about the hypocrisy of parents and politicians and civil servants who bang on about fairness, community and diversity but choose not to champion it in their personal lives or work life. And yes I am furious that my good friends have to walk past people who gamed the system as they jump on a bus to the school that so many of those parents turned their noses up at, even though it was their local school.

So GreenEggsAnd NaiceHam put your cards on the table, how do you know so much about my personal circumstances? And why did you feel you had to attend church to get your child into a particular school? What was your nearest school and why was it not acceptable? Are you trying to defend your friends who rented temporarily to get into EP? Direct message me let’s talk I have nothing to hide. I could introduce you to some of the parents who didn't get their siblings into Kentish Town Primary because you felt there was nothing wrong with pretending to do god.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Sat 19-Oct-13 10:36:01

My nearest school is Eleanor Palmer. We knew we had no chance of getting into ANY local schools, and stood the real chance of getting no school at all as did children at our childs nursery. We could not keep our child at nursery for the reception year as she is too old and legally needs to be at school.

The Schools Adjudicator says that they don't care what is in peoples hearts, so I don't see why you should. I have never pretended to "do God", I followed the admissions criteria to t he letter. As did many other people who live on my street who are in the same situation as me, first or only children, whose nearest school is Eleanor Palmer, but who stood no chance of getting this or any other community school. I would have loved TP but even with the extra 15 children we are still al long way down the waiting list. I would imagine this is because a lot of parents have moved to near Yerbury, pushing YErbury parents to TP, a lot of Yerbury nursery kids didn't get a reception place there.

The head at EP shouldn't have told you that you had a reception place. I know people who could have had an EP nursery place but didn't apply, or take it up because it was too expensive, or didn't provice the hours of childcare they needed. The problem was it was the first year parents had to pay and no one really thought of the implications

I didn't want my child to go to Carlton or Brecknock as they are not our local schools. When we went for a look around I was met by "lovely" middle class parents who were quite happy with the schools because they could go private if it all went pear shaped; or their children were bumped up a year because they were surgeons; or they were rude and arrogant; or they felt that primary school doesnt matter anyway and they lived close enough to get into CSG. I am not rich or middle class and I do think that primary school is important. I have a perfectly good socially mixed school on my doorstep, that is no more into God than any other Community school, why shouldn't my child go there? The admissions criteria were really clear and could have been read by the parents whose children attended the nursery; who I am afraid have been "screwed over" by the school for their poor planning. THe school could have worked out that by lowering their intake and putting siblings low down the admission list in a high birth rate year that siblings would not get in.

Why on a previous thread have you said that your first son did not get his first choice of school on admissions day? I assumed where you lived that your first choice would have been Eleanor Palmer. I don't understand why you didn't know that people have cheated for years, you must know EP isn't really a local school. The child currently in YEar 1 should probably not keep their place, I don't understand why they have, unless there is more than one of them. (Parents not living together)

I am really cross with you as you are lumping the KT and EP thing together when they are totally seperate. I am on your side. I don'tt actually want my child to go to EP, I think it is snobby and elitist and isn't any London that I know (and yes, I am from London). I am fed up of watching children get off the bus, tube and train and walk past my house because they have the luxury of having an older sibling who once (for a month or two) lived near EP. HOwever I would have liked my ONLY child to have the chance of gettting into a local community school.

Other people on this post are aware of the hell I went through this year with Camden. I am not sure I have the strength to fight them, life is too short, mine certainly is. But I wouldn't mind giving it a go with a bright person like you in tow, but not if you continue to miss the point.

Right, I have work to do.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Sat 19-Oct-13 10:39:20

I seem to recall we are 260 m from EP, and we are over 20 on the waiting list for that, TP and Torriano.

Levantine Sat 19-Oct-13 12:39:24

I have been reading this with interest because it mirrors my experience in a London borough I used to live in. But could someone please explain to me how a state primary (eleanor palmer) can charge for its nursery? I have never heard of that before. Have I misunderstood something?

TPFamily Sat 19-Oct-13 17:31:12

I don't know how a state primary got away with charging for nursery but they did. I find it hard to believe that the cost of paying for nursery put many people off as it was a damn sight cheaper to send our eldest to full time nursery at EP than it was for two half days a week with a decent childminder.

We live 186m from EP and lost out on a reception place due to the issue being discussed in this thread and ended up at Brecknock, a school we didn't include on our choices as, get this, there are 6 schools which are closer. As it goes, Brecknock is a great school and we are getting as involved in the PTA and the school as possible, and arguably it could even be considered local. But when there are so many more schools so much closer it does seem ridiculous not to have been offered a place at one of them. If nobody had played the system it wouldn't be an issue. Then it would just be the wider problem of not enough schools and that's another argument. But knowing that people have played the system creates anger and tension among the community.

And that's what is at the heart of this issue - community. People who play the system in this way do not represent the community, or if they do, it's the worst elements of it - snobbery, elitism, one-upmanship, call it what you like but it's divisive and dishonest.

We're totally happy with the school we were eventually allocated and if people simply applied for their local schools without trying to play the system there would be a much more diverse demographic represented in all local schools, and schools like EP, which despite what people may label it as, is still a great school run by great staff, would not be so ruthlessly targeted by the well to do champagne socialist media professionals and minor celebrities so eager to prove their right on credentials by sending their darling offspring to a state primary, while knowingly doing some other child out of their rightful place.

Going to church to try and secure a place in a faith school is also dishonest, whatever people think. If you don't believe in it, don't go to church.

Everything about this issue is rotten. Because "everyone does it" doesn't make it right. MPs weren't doing anything wrong (i.e. not allowed within the rules) when they were claiming ridiculous/over-inflated/fictitious expenses. The rules changed and MPs were publicly shamed and had to re-pay their ill-gotten expenses. When will local councils pay attention to what the community is saying and change the rules about temporary renting?

jojo28 Sat 19-Oct-13 20:19:56

GreenEggsAnd NaiceHam, you are missing the point – and that is one of fairness. The Eleanor Palmer & Kentish Town admissions problems are not separate as they both illustrate how the admission codes high minded principles of fairness, clarity and objectivity are not mirrored in peoples experience of the process in reality. Both are examples of how the admissions system in this country favours the knowing, well resourced and dishonest. You may have no qualms in attending church to get your child into a school but for me and many other parents it is anathema and so we are in effect excluded. The schools adjudicator may say it doesn't matter what is in your heart, but how easy would it be to sit in a church in a hijab or a turban or a yarmulke! How can you say that is fair? Some of those nursery parents did read the admissions criteria & understood it clearly but knew that they could not fulfill it because of their deeply held beliefs and morals.

Furthermore I may have had problems with EP but it is still a great school and despite popular belief to the contrary the majority of year 6 children do go on to local state secondary schools. This may change in the future – who knows.

I remember meeting you that day at Brecknock and I am sad that you thought so little of the parents you met. My memory is completely different, I met confident parents with high moral principles who were doing their utmost to contribute and support their local school. It is theses parents and that of my friend Tim, whose children attend Carlton and are very happy there, who are my inspiration. If there were more parents like that the education system would be in far better shape and our communities would all be stronger.

pollycurtis Sat 19-Oct-13 21:11:23

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam I'm so sorry you got that impression when you visited Brecknock. I'm not sure if we have met but I wanted to say from my personal point of view (my daughter is at the school) it is really hurtful to see the school portrayed in that light. It couldn't be further from the truth. The school is by no means perfect - no school is - but academically it is improving rapidly against the odds and equally importantly it is a very special community that is truly diverse and inclusive. My daughter loves going to school and feels part of something in a way that I think has made her feel very secure and motivated. I'm very proud she is there. I'm not sure how your situation has resolved but I do hope it's working out.

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Sun 20-Oct-13 12:35:07

Well Jojo, I think we agree on some points and not on others. We have very different ways of trying to make changes in the areas we perceive to be wrong. It's good we have both managed to make some changes though although mine have been a bit more under the radar than yours.

Did you take the matter of the illegal rentings up with the Local Government Ombudsman? As from everything I understand the rentings should not have given the children a place under admissions law; there is no legal loop hole, just a council unwilling to act on the law?

As for "fairness", although I see your point, I have always been taught that " fairness" is a subjective, rather than objective; what is fair for you may not be fair for me. I am more interested in equality, either of outcome or of opportunity.

I can't say I am a big fan of " choice" in Government policy.

It's probably confusing for people to read this part of the thread, as a lot of information has been going on in the local press, and the Soft play and playgrounds of nW Lond

GreenEggsAndNaiceHam Sun 20-Oct-13 12:41:52

London. It's been interesting to read the press, and see things that I know are biased and sometimes completely untrue. It's made me re evaluate every story I read, something I should have been doing anyway.

I'm glad that Brecknock is working out for people. I liked the school, I just found some of parents I met there a bit out of touch , I've been there on many occasions Jojo, they all gt mixed up in my mind.

jojo28 Sun 20-Oct-13 14:15:03

Greeneggs interesting you say you are interested in equality. The very reason faith schools can discriminate in the way they do is because they are granted exemptions from equality laws.

PennyHerrzell Sun 20-Oct-13 19:39:07

We have laws in our society because without them, people will make their decisions based on their own subjective view of what is fair. This is precisely what happened at both EP and KT this year. The admissions authorities for both schools failed to anticipate the impact of their dysfunctional arrangements on the fair allocation of school places. In both cases some parents took advantage of the 'loopholes', and though legally complying with the published arrangements, they acted against the intended spirit of the law. None of them should be surprised that members of the community have drawn attention to their behaviour.

The existence of faith schools with their exemption from equalities legislation adds a layer of complexity because for the system to work everyone must feel as though the criteria for allocation are broadly fair, which is not the case in the Kentish Town ward.

Kentish Town has one of the highest rates of secularism in the country; over two thirds of us do NOT identify ourselves as christians, yet two of the four schools in our ward are Christian faith schools. Regular church attendance for the CofE and Catholic churches is thought to be no more than 2% of the population each. On this basis, no more than 3 places in each school would be reserved for active followers of the faith. Were this the case, the anomaly might be generally accepted, but as it stands, it provides a mechanism for gaining a school place unfairly, resulting in well documented social selection.

BranchingOut Mon 21-Oct-13 16:03:09

Am I the only person who thinks that this thread reveals way too much of some mumsnetters' personal identities and family lives?

JustAnotherUserName Mon 21-Oct-13 16:47:50

No. Me too. They clearly all know each other...

TPFamily Mon 21-Oct-13 18:35:19

That's because it's an issue that affects a community and if you're part of that community, the chances are that a discussion like this will draw in people that you know as well as people from further afield.

This issue affects communities up and down the country which is why it's good to open it up to debate on a forum like this, but it shouldn't surprise anyone if people recognise other members of their own community, especially when the initial post was specific to a particular school in a strong, close-knit north London community.

Shootingatpigeons Tue 22-Oct-13 11:58:57

In our local area a debate on a schools issue led to people coming together and meeting in RL activism, both those for and against. Not necessarily a bad thing. The democratic process then took it's course but Mumsnet definitely was an early catalyst to it and a way to raise awareness of the issues. It doesn't necessarily lead to your house being firebombed and your children bullied, although I think some dinner party chatting may have got a bit heated........

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