Church school place fraud ?

(102 Posts)
Whydidnoonetellme Thu 01-May-14 09:08:41

We applied to a church school and were rejected on distance.

Since offers day, I have been astounded by the amount of other mums who have got places despite not meeting the strict criteria (attendance twice a month at any of 3 local churches for 2 years, as signed by the vicar, or by a church outside the local area for the same time as signed by the appropriate vicar).

At least 3 of these mums have told me verbally that while they are of that particular religion, they do not go to church regularly.

It appears that in reality, all you need is a vague interest in the church and a friendly vicar to sign off your lies.

Is this worth reporting to anyone ? Would the LA take an interest? I can not imagine the school itself wants to accuse their church or others or lying? Who could hold them to account ?

The schools admissions policy says it will investigate address fraud but mentions nothing else regarding fraud.

Any ideas ?

Zingy123 Thu 01-May-14 09:22:25

Yes same for us for secondary. Our priest seems to have signed anyone's form who asked him to. Makes a mockery of the system. I have told the school but they say they take the ministers word as proof.

Whydidnoonetellme Thu 01-May-14 09:24:14

Did you report to anyone else ? LA? In legal terms who holds the church schools to account - anyone know ?

OsmiumPhazer Thu 01-May-14 09:25:44

Sorry to be so blunt but it is not your role to 'Police' the schools faith admissions, all you have is hearsay and no real evidence. Instead of expending energy on a fruitless campaign, get on the waiting list, keep checking and perhaps a place will become available come September.

Whydidnoonetellme Thu 01-May-14 09:26:15

It is like a sketch from Father Ted, the parents are lying but as long as the vicar believes them then its fine. So unfair.

Whydidnoonetellme Thu 01-May-14 09:29:44

It is not hearsay, I heard direct from one mum that she never goes to church. She said X religion was her faith but she could not and would not be forced to going to church every sunday as it did suit her family arrangements (think it was swimming lessons instead).

If it is defrauding other children of an education without travelling several miles away, it is in my interest. Fraud is fraud in whatever guise IMO.

Whydidnoonetellme Thu 01-May-14 09:30:56

sorry, did 'not' suit her family (swimming lessons were more important)

Minorchristmascrisis Thu 01-May-14 09:33:33

It's nothing new though, in my area, it's widespread practice. I do know of one church where prospective parents sign a register after mass but lots just get the priest to sign and he obliges. It's been going on for years.

OsmiumPhazer Thu 01-May-14 09:48:32

Whydidnoonetellme

I can understand why your upset especially when you have played by the rules, for so long. it is a symptom of our system where the ‘sharp elbowed’ seem to get ahead by gaming the system, and I am afraid that’s has happened in this instance. I would still say that although you say it is not ‘hearsay’ it will be difficult to prove your instances of ‘faith fraud’

Whydidnoonetellme Thu 01-May-14 09:56:35

Yes I imagine, they would need an accurate church record. I have no idea if this exists.

I initially discovered this as I was hearing that other mums (who I had assumed were applying on distance but lived much further away than us) had places. I thought a mistake was made on our distance, then I discover they were actually church places despite these parents saying that previously they were not. I may send in a notice to the school asking to clarify distance with these concerns. That's the least I can do.

tiggytape Thu 01-May-14 10:00:32

Sorry to be so blunt but it is not your role to 'Police' the schools faith admissions, all you have is hearsay and no real evidence. Instead of expending energy on a fruitless campaign, get on the waiting list, keep checking and perhaps a place will become available come September.

It is a problem if the admissions criteria are not met or open to abuse. It isn't just one of those things people should accept. If the criteria are set out like that, they must be followed.

In this case, the school are making things difficult to police by asking for attendance over 2 years. Would even the most careful vicar remember if it was 23 months or 25 months that a family had attended?

Most schools who want to have such strict criteria also have to accept strict monitoring. They have colour coded slips that the family are handed at the end of each service to fill out to show attendance. They have a book to sign at the end of each service. Or they abandon trying to police such things and simply ask for baptism instead and no attendance requirement at all.

If you feel that you missed out on a place as a direct result of people claiming church attendance who had no right to, then I do think you should appeal and let the school explain how they expect the church to personally guarantee that each person attended 2 times in a calender month (as opposed to 3 times one month and once the next) and how they would know whether it was 23 or 25 months in total. If they want to set such specific criteria, they have to be able to prove it is adhered to and followed.

Zingy123 Thu 01-May-14 10:00:59

The school in question for us is an academy. The LA just referred me back to the school.

tiggytape Thu 01-May-14 10:04:57

At primary level, such schools may also be VA so also set their own criteria. However that doesn't let them off the duty placed on them by the admission code to ensure that the policies they choose are able to be checked, proved and are seen to be open and fair.

If they cannot show how for example a vicar would reliably differentiate between a family who attend 3 times in January but only once in February 2 years ago then they cannot show that the strict limits they require are capable of being fairly implemented.

Whydidnoonetellme Thu 01-May-14 10:10:23

that's very interesting tiggy thanks for the input. I am going to mull over.

MumTryingHerBest Thu 01-May-14 10:19:43

OsmiumPhazer in this instance, I'm not so sure it would be hard to prove. It would be quite easy to take a picture of the mum at the swimming lesson for three/four weeks in a row in the same month, possibly demonstrating non compliance on "attendance twice a month at any of 3 local churches for 2 years". The only caveat to that would be if the mum claimed to go to church at a different time.

As long as people just accept that this is happening, it will continue. It will take only one or two cases where people are known to be found out to make others think twice about manipulating the rules to suit their own needs.

I also agree that the OP should ensure they are on the CI for all other schools in the area.

OsmiumPhazer Thu 01-May-14 10:25:07

MumTryingHerBest

It would be quite easy to take a picture of the mum at the swimming lesson for three/four weeks in a row in the same month, possibly demonstrating non compliance on "attendance twice a month at any of 3 local churches for 2 years"

Seriously?!

WhosLookingAfterCourtney Thu 01-May-14 10:30:36

Wow. It's a disgrace the state schools can discriminate in this way and I'm actually glad that this school isn't using an arbitrary show your face at church yardstick to admit children.

If all they need is a vicar's signature, and they haven't forged that signature, then this isn't fraud.

prh47bridge Thu 01-May-14 11:01:12

If all they need is a vicar's signature, and they haven't forged that signature, then this isn't fraud

If the vicar is signing to say the parents have attended church regularly when they haven't it is fraud. It is also unfair on those who have achieved the required attendance and end up missing out on places. Regardless of what anyone thinks of the criteria they must be administered correctly.

MumTryingHerBest Thu 01-May-14 11:11:48

OsmiumPhazer are you questioning whether this is possible to do or whether it is ethical to do it?

OsmiumPhazer Thu 01-May-14 11:14:25

MumTryingHerBest

I just don't think it is the sensible thing to do

MumTryingHerBest Thu 01-May-14 11:17:35

OsmiumPhazer in which way would it not be sensible? Just to be clear, I'm not saying I disagree with you.

I would also say that it is not very sensible for parents to openly tell people they do not attend church and then apply for a place at a school under the criteria that requires them to do so.

WhosLookingAfterCourtney Thu 01-May-14 12:22:28

prh then it's the vicar that's committed 'fraud'

Perhaps the parents didn't mention that they'd been going to church because they feel hypocritical or embarrassed about jumping through this particular hoop in order to get into this state funded school.

tiggytape Thu 01-May-14 12:30:40

The parents fill out the form with the "true" extent of their church attendance and the vicar signs it usually to confirm they attend.

That is why it is flawed because it relies on parents telling the truth when it may not be in their interests to do so and it relies on the memory of the vicar to be highly specific (recalling 2 services per calender month extending back over a 2 year period for every child). It is not feasible that anyone can do this however good their intention so it forces the vicar to rely on the honesty of the parents which is obviously not to be trusted here.

That is why most schools who don't want a ton of admin choose a shorter attendance time or choose baptism only. The ones who want to make sure only the very faithful get places have to accept this will need a huge paper trail to detail everyone's record of attendance to ensure places are fairly issued. If they don't do that, they are not carrying out the admissions fairly and other people have every right to appeal and complain at being denied places by people cheating.

nonicknameseemsavailable Thu 01-May-14 12:45:11

well a) she might not be being truthful in saying she hasn't been to church and b) it is perfectly possible a saturday evening service is counted not just a sunday morning one. certainly is in our church.

rocketjam Thu 01-May-14 12:55:55

Our church introduced cards that the Vicar has to sign at the end of each service. It's drastic, and I really don't like it, but children of families who attend church weekly are offered a place at school, based on sibling and distance, and also first criteria of looked after children. When introduced, the 'card' caused absolute uproar. The issue is that the school is so oversubscribed that even if you go to church regularly for years, there is no guarantee that the child will get in.

And also, relying on people's honesty is out of the question. People will lie to a vicar, I see it done regularly. To their face. ie 'Little George is so ill with asthma that he rests all weekend and that's why we don't go to Church', when I know too well that little George is playing football, golf, cricket, most weekends (with my children, that's why I know).

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