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).

sunnybobs Thu 01-May-14 13:03:08

I don't know the exact law but I've just been on a Church education course where the Priests were telling us that actually asking for any form of church attendance record breaks a 2002 law? So while lots of church schools ask for it if anyone challenged it they wouldn't be on very stable ground. The only real thing you can ask for us baptismal certificate. Which is of course open to similar "fraud" though if we're going to support church schools funded by the state we also have to accept they should be open to anyone who wants a place.

DeWee Thu 01-May-14 13:06:52

I was also wondering about other services. Several churches in our area offer children's preschool services during the week, or messy church services Saturday/Sunday afternoon. I would think those would count too.

nonicknameseemsavailable Thu 01-May-14 13:11:04

our church school also has to count foreign language services held in a different church in the town which isn't normally counted towards this school if that makes sense.

I think there will always be people who will work things to suit themselves, I think there is sadly very little we can do about it.

lunar1 Thu 01-May-14 13:18:34

I think it's pretty shocking that the two closest schools to us we couldn't access as the were faith schools and we were only offered the third closest which is in special measures. Religion really shouldn't determine your standard if education.

WhosLookingAfterCourtney Thu 01-May-14 13:19:23

Why shouldn't people work things to suit themselves though?

To get job seeker's allowance you have to apply for x number of jobs, to get into this particular school you have to go to get a vicar to sign a form....

How else should the school measure if a child is sufficiently pious?

Whydidnoonetellme Thu 01-May-14 13:21:15

Thanks for the replies. I am not sure if I am going to appeal or not. Surely an independent appeal is not so with a VA school are they not on the panel??

I can't help to think that if I raised it I would become seriously disliked by the school and the church. If I could do it anonymously I would.

If their system relies on honesty then I can't see that there is anyway to prove attendance so would they have to withdraw all church places and reallocate on looked after, siblings, distance. Plus I don't know how many church places were gained and any distance info or siblings numbers...I can't see if we would have got a place even without those that have dodgy church attendance filling up spaces.

FWIW I really do believe the other mum. She is not from the UK and doesn't get our school system at all with its weird religious ties. She told she felt she would never get a place as they live x distance away and that the problem with that school is that they admit church people first!

Retropear Thu 01-May-14 13:40:59

Sorry no sympathy.

No child should be discriminated against because of how often their parents go to church.We all pay taxes and have every right to send our children to any school of our choosing.

The sooner the church are stopped from being a factor in who does or doesn't get places in schools paid for by tax payers money the better.

prh47bridge Thu 01-May-14 14:20:57

I've just been on a Church education course where the Priests were telling us that actually asking for any form of church attendance record breaks a 2002 law

The priests were talking complete and utter rubbish. The only 2002 law that is even vaguely relevant is the Education Act and that has absolutely nothing to say on the subject at all. Almost all faith schools use church attendance to give priority. That is perfectly legal.

Surely an independent appeal is not so with a VA school are they not on the panel

The appeal panel must always be independent regardless of the type of school. The panel must not include anyone connected with the school or previously connected with the school.

I can't help to think that if I raised it I would become seriously disliked by the school and the church

They should be more professional than that.

If their system relies on honesty then I can't see that there is anyway to prove attendance so would they have to withdraw all church places and reallocate

They cannot withdraw places. The appeal panel would have to work out who should have been admitted. If that gives more successful appeals than the school can handle the panel will have to decide how many to admit and choose the most deserving cases.

I don't know how many church places were gained and any distance info or siblings numbers

If you ask the school they must answer your questions. They are required to answer any question you ask (within reason) to help you prepare for your appeal.

I can't see if we would have got a place even without those that have dodgy church attendance filling up spaces

The appeal panel will have to work that out if they accept that the vicar has been signing forms incorrectly.

Sorry no sympathy

As far as I am concerned I always sympathise with anyone who has been cheated out of a place regardless of whether or not I happen to agree with the admission criteria.

We all pay taxes and have every right to send our children to any school of our choosing

No you don't. You have the right to express a preference. You do not have the right to choose.

The sooner the church are stopped from being a factor in who does or doesn't get places in schools paid for by tax payers money the better

Provided you are willing to pay the taxes needed to buy the land and buildings of all the church schools, and replace those funds currently provided by the church that is a perfectly respectable position.

tiggytape Thu 01-May-14 14:33:17

How else should the school measure if a child is sufficiently pious?

"Our church introduced cards that the Vicar has to sign at the end of each service."

This is the answer really.
If a church school insists it wants years of attendance that is fine. Some areas have dozens of parents attending just for a school place so at the very least, they should go to people who meet the criteria.

I was also wondering about other services. Several churches in our area offer children's preschool services during the week, or messy church services Saturday/Sunday afternoon. I would think those would count too.

Other services often do count but again the admissions criteria must state what counts and what doesn't and how they will measure who has complied with it. It can't just be some wishy-washy details - it has to be specific.

Sorry no sympathy.

No child should be discriminated against because of how often their parents go to church.We all pay taxes and have every right to send our children to any school of our choosing.

Whether you agree with faith criteria or the concept of church schools is a separate issue. They exist, faith criteria is perfectly legal BUT as with all criteria it must be able to be verified. Being cheated of your place by people who lie about church services is no different to losing a place to people who lie about their address. The net result is that parents should not have the ability to lie about meeting a criteria they don't really meet just to get a place that wouldn't rightfully be theirs.

PastSellByDate Thu 01-May-14 14:38:13

Our CofE school changed rules recently so that you had to attend the associated church not any Christian church - because so many people from miles away were getting in and local community weren't.

If you are close by then in reality you will have a good chance on their wait list - so ask to remain on their wait list.

It isn't fair - and frankly I think this is how parents in areas with poor schools 'work the system' - and to be honest I can't blame them - probably resort to much the same if I was in their shoes.

But I think this whole parental choice lark is a disaster from the get go. Genuinely think it far better if it was straightforward - these post-codes go to y school and those go to z school. But I suspect this was an attempt to stop the other notorious fiddle (which we are guilty of) - good or outstanding school catchments have higher house prices and therefore only those that can afford to live there (or rent there) have priority.

I've also noticed - but this could be anecdotal) that here the council seems to favour applications from home owners over applications from renters.

prh47bridge Thu 01-May-14 14:47:45

these post-codes go to y school and those go to z school

That only works if we abolish the infant class size limit, have enough school places to go round (there are severe shortages in some areas leading to a scrabble at this time of year to persuade one or more schools to open bulge classes) and the schools with available places are in the right place. It also needs all schools to be the same standard or parents not to care about standards, both of which are highly unlikely.

here the council seems to favour applications from home owners over applications from renters

That would be illegal if true. I suspect the reality is that a lot of people have used short term rents in an attempt to get places at popular schools and the council have got wise to it. The council probably has a list of rented properties known to be a source of fraudulent applications and looks very suspiciously at any application from those addresses.

tiggytape Thu 01-May-14 14:48:13

It isn't fair - and frankly I think this is how parents in areas with poor schools 'work the system'

If you want to "work the system" to get into a church school, you do as the policy requires and go to a service twice a month for 2 years. That way you legitimaely qualify so have no need to lie. No faith school ever asks for proof of actual faith only proof of performing certain actions.

I've also noticed - but this could be anecdotal) that here the council seems to favour applications from home owners over applications from renters.

That should never be true. Unless you mean that some renters get school places withdrawn where they rent in catchment just to cheat. That does happen and it is fortunate that it does else the situation would be even worse. Genuine renters and genuine homeowners are treated the same in the admissions system.

Genuinely think it far better if it was straightforward - these post-codes go to y school and those go to z school

The reason this doesn't happen is population density. Several hundred new houses can be built over 2 years in one postcode. In London, hundreds of children can live in one road (blocks of flats) let alone in one postcode! You'd end up with primary classes of 45+ or schools doing split shifts just to be able to take the 200+ pupils that were entitled to a place. Children have to be spread out where places exist and some children have to attend schools that most people don't want because there aren't enough spaces overall and because schools and housing groups aren't always near to each other.

Whydidnoonetellme Thu 01-May-14 15:25:16

Regarding waiting lists we are no 19. There is a class of 60. Last year 6 children left before sept, so we would need 3x as many this year, so not hopeful.

I think I will request the appeals details anyway. Nothing ventured nothing gained etc.

Thanks for the comments all.

frillysockmum Thu 01-May-14 18:48:12

I would be massively angry and would appeal. I would ask how they check the evidence upon which decisions are made and present details (names not needed) of people who live miles away who have told you they do not attend. Kick up a fuss and threaten embarrass them and who knows what may happen? Nothing ventured etc and if no one challenges it, it will go on and on for years

Frikadellen Thu 01-May-14 19:24:37

A parent I know who is not a church goer got her son into a church school I made a comment on how lucky she had been to get him in on distance. She replied " Oh I dont go to church but my x does" so he had got in on church attendance from dad. Perfectly legal and fair really could be the situation in some of the cases?

LIZS Thu 01-May-14 19:28:04

Presumably if you don't have the church connection and live some distance away it was an outside chance your dc would get in regardless. Can you be confident that 19 out of the 60 have not genuinely met the criteria which have placed them ahead of you ?

Whydidnoonetellme Thu 01-May-14 20:16:40

Last year, out of 60 there were about 25 church places, so I imagine if it is the same this year that 19/25 would have had to have dodgy church references. Not impossible, well the 3 families I know that have a place in this category are all dodgy, of course to my untrained eye.

Plus this is a high mobility area, lots of private schools, so one can expect about 1/3rd of people to disappear off the waiting lists too.

We are the same distance to this school as another church school we were offered a place at ironically! But, the school we were allocated is much less desirable as you would imagine. We would have been offered a fantastic state school last year, but this year it had no bulge class and next year it will also have a bulge, so we have been very unlucky. We are 21st on the list there.

I am concerned that the appeal, should I ask for one, would not be impartial. On the offer letter it says to request a form and send it in to the appeals clerk at the school? Does that sound legitimate anyone ? Would it then be sent on the LA or an impartial body? Or does the vicar just peruse it over a cup of tea ?

tiggytape Thu 01-May-14 22:06:06

All appeals are conducted by an independent panel with clear laws about their conduct and rules about what happens. You can read more about this if you look at the Admissions Appeals Code 2012.
It certainly isn't an informal chat or the school's head having the final say.

The school may arrange the appeals (some do and some get the LA to do it) but the actual appeal iteself is not an internal school procedure.

Tanith Thu 01-May-14 23:52:14

I'd always thought that faith schools used their admissions criteria to ensure children with their particular religious beliefs would be given priority.
However, there have been some upsets in our area this year and I'm surprised at some of the admissions policies. One school has no religious obligation, but specifies that siblings of children who've left the school have priority. I can't understand why that's necessary and it's no surprise to hear that the school's places were all taken under the siblings criteria this year.

I do think some faith schools are misusing their admissions privilege.

racmun Thu 01-May-14 23:58:57

This is really interesting. Round here the local church school has the requirement of (1) active involvement and (2) attendance twice a month for 2 years - but they don't take a register, no slips or anything for signing. It's completely Un policed. It's basically who brown noses the vicar most.

I was actually thinking I feel like raising it as an issue - would that be to the Office if the Dchhols adjudicator?

Also I didn't think they were allowed the active involvement element as its discriminatory - have I got this right?

prh47bridge Fri 02-May-14 00:40:12

The Schools Adjudicator deals with cases where the admission criteria are in breach of the Admissions Code so they would deal with the "active involvement" question. If it is not being implemented correctly it is up to appeal panels to sort out individual cases. You can try complaining to the LGO if it is a VA school, the EFA if it is a free school or academy but they may not want to get involved.

I am concerned that the appeal, should I ask for one, would not be impartial

As Tiggytape says, it must be impartial by law. The school is responsible for arranging appeals so the clerk (who deals with the practical arrangements) will often be someone employed by the school. But there must be a proper hearing in front of an independent panel. The members of the panel must not have any connection with the school, either currently or in the past, that would throw doubt on their impartiality.

tiggytape Fri 02-May-14 08:30:48

Yes the active involvement criteria has come up recently as unfair because it discriminates indirectly against parents who have ot work at weekends, parents who work so many hours they have no spare time to help, disabled parents who perhaps cannot help etc...
That is a matter for the Schools' Adjudicator to decide upon if you refer it.
Attendance isn't a problem in terms of making it one of the criteria but, like all criteria, it must be clear and fair. You cannot rely on parental honesty about how much they attend just as you wouldn't rely on parental honesty about addresses that were in doubt.

I'd always thought that faith schools used their admissions criteria to ensure children with their particular religious beliefs would be given priority.

No, that isn't always the case. Some faith schools reserve half their spaces for children of other or no religions. Some just ask for baptism but no church attendance. Siblings of former pupils is, I agree, a stupid policy but it is a legal one. Just as schools can now give priority to members of staff.

Whydidnoonetellme Fri 02-May-14 09:11:33

Thanks for the further comments. Really makes me want to appeal now. Even if we don't win, it is putting pressure on to force a more inclusive policy for future children (like my 2 year old!).

tiggytape Fri 02-May-14 09:47:05

It may not lead to an inclusive policy as such but any policy used should be fairly handled even if the policy itself doesn't seem fair in the 'inclusive to all' sense.

Few policies at popular schools are inclusive to all - even at non faith schools siblings from far away can push out all local children for example. At popular schools, more people get rejected than accepted so by definition they do not include everyone.

Appeals and concerns though may lead to stricter controls on ensuring that nobody can lie and say they meet the criteria if they don't. That may or may not help in terms of getting younger children a place but at least, if you don't get a place, you know it is because other people really did meet the criteria laid down rather than just lied to get above you in the queue.

PastSellByDate Fri 02-May-14 09:50:43

phr47bridge:

good point regarding surplus/ lack of places if post code system was used - In US, cities get around this by allocating places once applications are made & busing surplus students to area with spaces - school busing is provided free of charge by the City/ County or State.

Perhaps because this is a student area with high mobility - there does seem to be a trend of home owners (ourselves) getting in over renters (a friend who lived closer to the school) in the same year. Her DC transferred into the school the following year.

tiggy - the only faith requirement was a baptism certificate. At the time I applied it could be from any Christian faith - now it's just from the associated CofE church - last year faith entries dropped to <10% but the attendance of the CofE church associated with the school has now shot through the roof apparently.

Our sibling rule is limited to children presently at the school (so in theory someone applying for a Year R place could claim sibling rule if an older sibling was in Y6) - but usually it's the case that siblings are closer in age. And this is in fact where most pupils always come from - most families have 2 but quite a few families have >2 children around here.

Whydidnoonetellme Fri 02-May-14 09:53:20

But again I am thinking, if as a result of my appeal, they had to change the admissions code, then the school/governors/local church fakers would really be upset. Not sure again sad Would I be setting myself and my child up to be a social pariah???

Any appeal winners like to share stories ? Did anyone get any problems ?

Whydidnoonetellme Fri 02-May-14 09:55:39

And yes, I appreciate that they may just say that I wouldn't have got a distance place anyway which is a possibility. It's the not knowing that is annoying me...

AuntFidgetWonkhamStrongNajork Fri 02-May-14 10:18:35

Our local church school went through a period of losing appeals because although there was an attendance criteria, it was not measurable - totally relied on the priest 'remembering' faces, and let's just say one of the priests had a reputation for a worse memory than the other wink

as tiggy says: 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

There are now registers available for a brief period at the end of each service. It's only for 6 months though so for half the year you can't get a seat and the place is deserted for the other 6 months

tiggytape Fri 02-May-14 10:28:34

Schools change and tweak admission policy and monitoring. Now more than ever. The numbers applying are huge in some areas and competition so fierce that nothing can be taken on trust anymore. Most people expect things to get tighter.

When there were 26 applicants for 30 places, nobody cared if the church forms were 100% accurate dating back over 2 years. When there are 400+ applicants for 60 places - it really matters that they get it right and I don't see anyone being angry about that.

Genuine people have a vested interest in weeding out cheaters because there is always a chance that more than 60 church children will apply and then their own child may also miss out to a cheat.

Cheaters can hardly complain. As you say, your friend just did what everyone else did to get in. If the new norm becomes genuine attendance and signing slips, people get used to it very quickly.

The school can hardly complain because if they're not careful they are going to end up having to admit children on appeal (like Aunt Fidget's) due to lax nature of the admissions checks.

prh47bridge Fri 02-May-14 10:39:40

Whydidnoonetellme - I have advised many people with appeals. I don't know of a single one who has become a social pariah or experienced any other issues as a result of winning their appeal. Stop worrying and concentrate on winning your appeal!

Whydidnoonetellme Fri 02-May-14 11:40:20

Yes you're right. If anything stricter criteria will mean more bums on seats in the church anyway. I am going to request the forms.

racmun Fri 02-May-14 12:08:24

Right I am now inspired to appeal!
The church school near here has 60 places - 30church and 30 non church.
We applied for a non church place and their criteria say if not enough church applicants then the places will go over to open places and this has actually happened this year, 29 church and 31 non church.

They don't keep an attendance record of the church attendees, so would my argument be that they haven't applied the criteria correctly?

So, if they can't prove the church attendance of the church places (which I cannot see how they will) do you think I have a chance of winning as they applied the criteria wrong. Or is it a case of people above of us on the list would get the place ahead of us?

Thanks

Whydidnoonetellme Fri 02-May-14 12:12:57

I was about to ask you racmun if you were going to appeal? Our cases are very similar...

tiggytape Fri 02-May-14 12:16:29

racmum - Present the facts to the appeal panel and let them sort out who should have got a place and who shouldn't. The panel will ask questions and get answers that you cannot. You have genuine grounds to believe the criteria have not been applied fairly (because the policy is unpoliced and open to interpretation about involvement).

If for example 15 of those church places went to people who should not have got one, then that means there should have been 46 places available to non church people instead of 31. That makes a big difference because maybe then you'd have got a place.

racmun Fri 02-May-14 12:26:12

Ok thanks tiggy, if, using your example we were no 47 and we wouldn't have got a place even if the criteria had been applied correctly does that mean we would lose the appeal?
Even if the applicants ahead of us in the queue don't appeal?

Thanks

racmun Fri 02-May-14 12:29:05

The distance for church places was 3.3km and non church 400m so there is a massive difference!

prh47bridge Fri 02-May-14 12:54:31

if, using your example we were no 47 and we wouldn't have got a place even if the criteria had been applied correctly does that mean we would lose the appeal?

I'm afraid so. The appeal panel has to figure out if you would have got a place had the admission arrangements been administered correctly. If the answer is no the appeal fails even if none of the other people affected by the error have appealed.

racmun Fri 02-May-14 13:05:17

Ok thanks prh47bridge. So assuming I appeal, it's accepted that the criteria were applied incorrectly but we wouldn't have got in on distance anyway and we lose what can actually be done to ensure the criteria are applied fairly in future?

Is my recourse to the OSA?

Zingy123 Fri 02-May-14 13:10:59

How would this work with secondary? I am appealing for a place for my daughter. The school takes children from all over the city so everyone has to get form signed by vicar/priest etc. I don't know what goes in in other churches but in mine the priest has signed everyones form who asked. There is no signing in book he just signs to say you have attended. I know he has done peoples who don't go. Would the appeal panel be bothered by this? I couldn't say how many forms he has signed and how many got in as a result. I can't prove we would have got in if he didn't sign peoples forms who never go to church.

tiggytape Fri 02-May-14 13:22:28

Zingy - yes the appeal panel will be bothered by that.
Part of their consideration (an important part) is to look at the admissions criteria for a school and decide whether those criteria have been applied equally and fairly to all candidates.

They don't comment on whether the criteria are fair or not
A lot of people go to appeal and complain distance as the crow flies is a rubbish way of measuring distances for example but the appeal panel will not consider such points.
Within legal limits, the panel don't care what the criteria are as long as they are fully applied.

If a parent believes the criteria are not being strictly applied, the panel can ask the school how they monitor it and ensure fairness.

If the school's requirement is complex one eg twice monthly attendance for 2 years there is little question that memory cannot be relied upon to ensure this is met.
It isn't good enough if the parents roughly meet the requirements (4 times at church some months but only once the next). It has to be precise. It has to be exactly as the criteria state so if the school has complex criteria, it better be prepared to prove they are enforced. If the panel believe this is not happening they may have to unpick who should and should not be offered a place. As others have said, this can lead to years where lots of people start winning appeals before corrections are made to monitor church attendance.

Parietal Fri 02-May-14 13:23:38

take a look at the website for the fair admissions campaign.
fairadmissions.org.uk/

I'm not sure they would take on something like this, but they are interested in documenting all cases where church rules end up making admissions unfair.

Zingy123 Fri 02-May-14 13:27:00

I raised it with the LA who referred me to the school. They said they rely on the honesty of the minister. It is on the form to the minister that they must honestly say how often people attend due to the number applying 600/240 places.

Will raise it at the appeal.

Zingy123 Fri 02-May-14 13:31:38

Sorry 600 applications for 270 places.

racmun Fri 02-May-14 13:41:05

I've just done a Freedom of Infornation requesting asking for clarification of which churches the people attended, just so I can check out if they keep a register.

Is it a good idea for me to contact the school and ask how the ensure fairness or is that for the panel to do?

Thanks for your advice

Whydidnoonetellme Fri 02-May-14 14:51:54

Does anyone know of any specific rulings whereby the word of the minister (honesty of the parents) for proving church attendance has been found to be outside of the Admissions code ?

Thanks for the info if anyone has it

KnittedJimmyChoos Fri 02-May-14 15:05:15

I find these threads so sad I feel for you op and also the poor parents having, to resource to subterfuge to get a school place...

why is this so?

Its maddness.

why dont you save your vitriol and instead write to your MP about the lack of good schools?

KnittedJimmyChoos Fri 02-May-14 15:07:11

The numbers applying are huge in some areas and competition so fierce that nothing can be taken on trust anymore. Most people expect things to get tighter

complain to your MP!

Dont punish the parents who want their child to get a decent education!

Whydidnoonetellme Fri 02-May-14 15:12:12

No one would lose a place once offered unless it was a fraudulent application (Address, short term rental etc). People appeal to help their child achieve the best education they can, not to disadvantage others (although faith based schools do disadvantage local people who are not of that faith, but that is a separate matter).

I have already written to my MP and local councillors. He replied back that he couldn't help it if everyone wanted to move here because of the schools....Not exactly that helpful.

kawliga Fri 02-May-14 15:15:03

Wow, surreptitiously taking photographs of your neighbours at the swimming pool every Sunday morning, accusing vicars and priests of lying, fraud and saying that they are 'talking complete and utter rubbish'...wow. It is a shame that the fight for school places has brought people down to this level. You might win your appeal and get a place for your child, but what sort of person will you become in the process? I guess you don't care, as long as you nail that school place?

It is also a shame that coveted church school places have exposed vicars and priests to these kinds of wars. I feel sorry for them having to fight all the sharp-elbowed mothers who will stop at NOTHING to get a school place, they will fight to the death and let nothing stand in their way.

Attending churches in London which have young children has become a horrific experience. You might be there for the liturgy but you are surrounded by desperate people all waiting for their little colour-coded slips to fill out so they can secure a school place.

Whydidnoonetellme Fri 02-May-14 15:21:51

I think taking photographs was mentioned in jest by another poster. An appeal is based on whether the school has a fully legal admissions code that's all.

But yes you are right, there are liars and cheats at every turn in the admissions process, but it's driven by lack of places and a rising birth rate. Parents are simply adapting to this. I think it's a Gov't policy issue ultimately.

I am sure you will feel that same once you have gone through the process or perhaps you are lucky to live on the doorstep of a great non-faith school which no-one else wants and don't have to worry (oh actually perhaps you do if there are lots of siblings...).

Whydidnoonetellme Fri 02-May-14 15:28:25

Anyway, I think I will butt out of this thread. I am going to receive our appeals forms over the weekend and decide whether indeed it is worth appealing or not.

Thanks for the advice everyone. Happy Bank Holiday too smile

tiggytape Fri 02-May-14 16:39:54

Appealing doesn't make you a bad person.
There are not enough school places in some areas forcing some children to travel miles for school
There are not enough good school places overall forcing some children to attend schools that their parents do not want and which fall short of expected standards.
These are both beyond the parents' control and outside the council's control to some extent (not all parents realise councils cannot build more schools anymore - only expand existing ones or hope for a Free School)

So there are a finite number of popular places and a check list for how those are handed out. If people lie to bump their children up that list then other parents should care and should complain and should appeal else it will only get worse.

And frankly, successful appeals put far more pressure on schools to sort this kind of thing out than any amount of writing to an MP ever does because it directly affects them on a daily basis whereas an MP has very little power to do anything about the local school situation at all.

3asAbird Fri 02-May-14 18:05:05

Can I ask some important questions?

why do people pick church schools in 1st place?

what makes them better?

or is it london its just nearest school?

I know london is skewed.

here outside london city and nearby villages.

All coe schools are la controlled so goes on distance this means no faith places and daughters school is mix of quite a few religions, the school is rated good , gets goo sats, is small. non religious people says its christian light once term they go church next door, only say one prayer day at lunch, vicar sometimes comes assembly and think some can opt out of assembly.

dd1 used go roman catholic primary which required baptism certificate which we had but coe one, church attendance sporadic, we attend christia toddler group once week, easter, xmas sometimes messy church as controlling 3kids by myself on sunday problematic at best.

Rc school had smaller intake than community primaries, went on faith fisrt then remaining distance so was 50%roman catholic, prayed lots more, dident teach evolution, had specialised sex ed prgram from dicocis.It laso had high esl as lots eastern european kids..

I agree on whole the top schools locally are coe but wondered why?

I looked round large mixed deprived counity academy and teacher said they had to ask paretal permission just to do nativity put me off,

But now dd2s been denied entry despite being baptised coe and our faith means nothing as just works on distance.

Not sure what solution is.

people too aceppting of shit schools.

is it worth filing comlian with either local coe or rc diosis office?

senior schools here faith is huge crietria and very few non faith get into coe or rc seniors which are highest performing seniors in city-whats their secret?

kawliga Fri 02-May-14 18:56:16

Appealing doesn't make you a bad person, but it's not about whether you're a bad person or not. Scrambling about, being suspicious of other parents, accusing priests of fraud and saying they are telling lies, stalking your neighbour to take photos and prove that she's not where she said she would be on Sunday morning...this does not make you a bad person but you really have to think about what it says about your character. Sure, there are people in this world who lie and cheat and steal, even priests can be evil, but unless you are a private detective or some kind of guardian of public morality then I don't think it's up to you to go around trying to expose them.

Bear in mind most people are not fighting just for a 'school place', they are just fighting to get their child into a specific school which is said to be the 'best' school where they will have advantages that children at 'lesser' schools don't have. So it's just about being competitive and going to any lengths to ensure your dc do better than other dc.

tiggytape Fri 02-May-14 19:14:09

kawlinger - The photography post was meant tongue in cheek I think.
What actually happened in one case here though is that a mother got her child a place at a church school then TOLD other parents that she didn't really attend church. Ever.

That is not sneaking around or being suspicious of fellow parents. It is being told up front that the admissions criteria which denied one person a place aren't even being properly implemented. Of course parents should challenge that!

It isn't about fighting for a school at any cost.

It is about accepting you may not get the school you want if other people qualify for it more than you do but feeling a bit pissed off if it turns out that they didn't qualify but still got a place.

If a school is popular they MUST ensure that the people who get turned down are genuinely the people who qualified least for the places.

shebird Fri 02-May-14 19:40:37

What are the other criteria? Church attendance is one of criteria for our faith school but it is not very top of the list. Above church attendance is that children have to be baptised catholic and priority is given to those baptised earlier i.e not the week before the form needs to be signed by the priest. Our priest will not sign forms for just anyone and he makes this very clear. Is it possible the DC of person the OP is suspicious of attends church with another family member?

MumTryingHerBest Fri 02-May-14 20:12:07

tiggytape fully agree :-)

icecreamsoup Fri 02-May-14 20:15:07

It will have big implications for schools/churches if people start appealing in situations like this, and winning. The church attached to my local CE school has an attendance register, but it has a vested interest because it is prioritised in the admissions criteria. I can't imagine other local churches, that don't have schools attached, wanting the hassle of a register. In fact I know of at least one local vicar who has deliberately signed people's forms, knowing that they haven't fulfilled the criteria, because he resents the fact that members of his congregation have been "poached" by the church attached to the school.

If appeals on these grounds are successful (and I think they should be), I can see one of two things happening; either church attendance will become a bureaucratic nightmare across the board, or non-attached churches will rebel and say they won't sign any more forms, effectively forcing schools to change their admissions criteria.

icecreamsoup Fri 02-May-14 20:45:18

prh47bridge said: "provided you are willing to pay the taxes needed to buy the land and buildings of all the church schools, and replace those funds currently provided by the church that [churches stopped from being a factor in who does or doesn't get places in schools paid for by tax payers money] is a perfectly respectable position."

The land ownership argument is compelling for legacy church schools, but not for new ones. New Faith Academies created under the Free School programme, and even new VA schools (such as the ones recently established in Richmond), are being given land/buildings owned by the state.

In general, funds provided by the church for VA schools are very minimal these days (10% of capital costs), and in any case tend to be covered by parental contributions.

Barbeasty Fri 02-May-14 20:46:06

3asAbird your LA might have only LA controlled Come schools, although that certainly isn't true at secondary if I have your location right, but plenty of CofE schools have religious criteria.

Lots of people choose religious schools because they are religious.

If a Catholic school doesn't teach evolution then you should complain. The Catholic Church preaches evolution so if a school doesn't it isn't teaching to the Catholic faith!

OP it might also be worth contacting the diocese. They could provide a second prong of pushing, especially if cheating means that "proper" followers of the faith are missing out.

Whydidnoonetellme Fri 02-May-14 20:54:05

There is no baptism requirement. First is looked after children, next medical needs, siblings, then attending immediately related churches, then living locally within area boundaries but attending any church any location with same sign off by the churches' vicar based on honesty over 2 years. Then distance. No limit on church numbers either.

I'm pretty sure no one in the mums family attends on their behalf, she said as much. She actually criticised people who falsely pretend to believe to get a place. She is a believer without doubt but doesn't feel she should have to prove it by going to church at set times. She felt this was hysterical Englishness! Perhaps she has convinced the admissions team of this too who knows.

If I don't appeal I will always wonder. I will accept their decision gracefully smile

icecreamsoup Fri 02-May-14 20:54:59

Just adding to my previous post. Many VA Schools are now converting to academy status, which means they no longer have to even pay 10% of the capital costs - their ongoing costs are fully funded by the state.

In the Richmond example,the school was only created as a VA school, rather than an academy, in order to bypass the 50% admissions rules. It's now converting to academy status and will be allowed to keep its VA admissions policy when it does so.

3asAbird Fri 02-May-14 21:17:58

all the coe primaries are la controlled all the va rc primaries have strct criteria for admissions ie kids living within parish baptised, baptised kids outside the parish, child with 1 baptised catholic parent.

yes at seniors criteria is batism+church attendance and catchment as 2 rc seniors and 1 coe.

Sure a lot will want faith school as they religious but proportion dont want that school o those grounds they want it as its academically good.
Church attendance is falling in uk so see so many oversubscribed faith schools is odd.

catchment no fairer either as will be certain schools i specific areas which be overwhelming afluent or deprived.

so still wondering apart from faith why pick that school

and why on whole faith schools seen to be doing better than community la schools or academys.

icecreamsoup Fri 02-May-14 21:34:50

3asAbird said: "all the coe primaries are la controlled"

They may be in your area, but not in others. Many CoE schools are voluntary aided (VA) rather than voluntary controlled (VC).

icecreamsoup Fri 02-May-14 21:40:25

"why on whole faith schools seen to be doing better"

Because they tend to be more socially selective than community schools.

That doesn't mean community schools can't be socially selective too - by house price - but relatively speaking faith schools are even more socially selective. They often select on a combination of both house price and faith criteria.

tricot39 Fri 02-May-14 21:42:24

I haven't read all the comments but as an athiest taxpayer I am annoyed that I am discriminated against when applying to certain schools which happen to have a religious leaning. Now I learn that the whole system is also corrupt. Sigh.....

efy1234 Sat 03-May-14 00:06:58

Hi, my daughter she in nursery now, but she has been refused reception class (30) for the same church school."We are attending mass and sunday school twice a month,in their school".It is been an error from us in the application form about all these information up the above, we only wrote we were going in the church because we assume they will know and not in their church. so we appeal and we are going soon to the panel with a supporting letter from the Prist.We've heard, there couple of children they're going in another school,but the school filled the spaces from the waiting list.So do you think, maybe, we can still have a place in this school after the appeal hearing?please help!!

efy1234 Sat 03-May-14 00:10:47

Hi, my daughter she in nursery now, but she has been refused reception class (30) for the same church school."We are attending mass and sunday school twice a month,in their school".It is been an error from us in the application form about all these information up the above, we only wrote we were going in the church because we assume they will know and not in their church. so we appeal and we are going soon to the panel with a supporting letter from the Prist.We've heard, there couple of children they're going in another school,but the school filled the spaces from the waiting list.(our house is 249 m distance from the school)So do you think, maybe, we can still have a place in this school after the appeal hearing?please help!!

prh47bridge Sat 03-May-14 01:54:02

If it was your mistake I'm afraid you are unlikely to win your appeal. If it was the school's mistake you should win. If you now submit the correct information to the school you should be at or near the head of the waiting list so may well get a place that way. But the appeal panel can't move you up the waiting list and the school won't until you have completed the forms correctly and supplied the information they need.

icecreamsoup Sat 03-May-14 08:01:53

Efy1234, when my DS transferred from nursery to Reception, one of his peers had a potentially related issue. They were disadvantaged because, as recent migrants, they had very limited English, and they didn't understand the system, never mind the wording on the forms. They just assumed that because they were in nursery they would have a place in the school, and nobody sat them down to explain otherwise.

Thankfully, the school found a place from the waiting list for them, although I don't know if they were treated as a special case (there was no automatic priority for nursery applicants, and they had no faith priority, so they could otherwise only have been ranked by distance).

Anyway, my point is that you should talk to the school (preferably the Head or the Inclusion Manager), if you haven't done so already. Even if they can't do anything to prioritise you at this stage, it will perhaps make them more aware of the need to ensure their nursery community all understand the process for transferring to Reception in future.

tiggytape Sat 03-May-14 08:15:20

I agree it is a real problem that, for many reasons, people don't always understand how places are allocated, the date they need to apply, the chances of getting a place etc. It happens to quite a lot of people every year.

The deadline date is much earlier than many expect. A whole year for secondary schools and only a bit less for primary.
Each school can have its own criteria so what gets priority in one doesn't in another
The equal preference system and preferences in general are not always understood. People think they have a choice or that they will definitely get one school they list.
The booklets explaining each point can be huge and pretty daunting so people rely on word of mouth which is often out of date eg they assume being in nursery = automatic reception place

It is definitely not possible for the waiting lists to be tweaked though.
It is simply not allowed.
Even in cases where people genuinely couldn't complete the forms, the Head cannot fix things to give them a place. All that can be done is to be added to the waiting list using the corrected church form to show that the child should actually be a higher priority. Hopefully this will lead eventually to an offer.

If it is a school error not a parent error then something more can be done. The parents can appeal on the basis that an error deprived them of a place (but only if the error wasn't down to the parents i the first place).

Frikadellen Sat 03-May-14 13:25:19

In response to the question about why people choose a church school. When we moved it was the only school with places for all 3 children we had of school age. Dd3 followed her siblings. The school isonow 7 years along over subscribed and highly sought after. We have been happy enough with the school and hence kept dd3 there though she is mow the only of our four still in primary.

So for us it was a non faith matter.

efy1234 Sat 03-May-14 22:37:33

Thanks ever so much all of you!! I'll let you know soon,don't think it is going to be good news.xxThanks again

crazymum53 Sun 04-May-14 14:16:21

It is possible though that this may not be fraud OP so you do have to be careful.
Usually the church attendance criteria apply if ONE adult with parental responsibility attends church on a regular basis (with or without the child). It cannot be both parents as that discriminates against single parents.
So children could meet this criteria if the mum doesn't attend church if the other parent does so (even if the parents are divorced or separated). If the parents attend separate churches ore more than one church (e.g. one parent catholic and the other C of E) then forms may be submitted from both churches so it may not be that simple.

teacherwith2kids Sun 04-May-14 17:58:27

"Even in cases where people genuinely couldn't complete the forms, the Head cannot fix things to give them a place."

In the school I used to work in - high parental illiteracy but a small community so most prospective pupils were 'known' - it was entirely normal for school staff to sit down with parents of children coming up to Reception age and to fill in their application form. Equally various staff - teahers, head, secretary, whoever the parent felt comfortable with - used to act as scribes to read and fill in forms for the next stage in pupils' education as they moved on. When the LA moved over to online-only application (with the request fo a paper form being buried 3 pages into the online application process) I spent quite a lot of lunchtimes with parents without computers coming in to use the laptops in my classroom to fill in their applications.

tbh, I'm a bit sad that the staff in the school nursery, knowing that they had parents with less-than-perfect English or less-than-perfect knowledge of the application process, didn't offer practical support. I know it's 'not their job', but it still makes me a bit sad. OK if the parent isn't known to the school at all, but in the case of a school-attached nursery, the parent IS known.

efy1234 Tue 20-May-14 21:28:00

So we had the answer...its no good,but we have the second choice and its a better (church)school.many thanks again to you all!!!

efy1234 Tue 20-May-14 21:30:36

So we had the answer...its no good,but we have the second choice and its a better (church)school.many thanks again to you all!!!

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