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Graveney - Renting in catchment for admissions purposes

(307 Posts)
StockwellLiving Thu 07-Jun-12 17:31:16

I am thinking about renting for a 12 month period or so from this summer to cover up to beginning of Y7 for DD in Sept 2013. And then moving back out.

I know (most people think) renting is wrong (and often discussed here). I actually also think its wrong, but I also know others do it (and not sure why we should be the only one not "playing the game", and I do want to avoid my local catchment school (have no religion, no money (for indies), average DD with no chance of her passing selection tests).

I am not starting this thread to get into the rights and wrongs of it - I only want to ask the very specific question: Do "renters" get caught and are places actually withdrawn?

I am asking about Graveney, not in general. I know from threads on MN that some LAs do try and look into short-term renting. But somehow I think that this particular school and this particular LA don't really care (happy to have aspirational middle classes moving into catchment) ...... so do they look into whether the rental is permanent or not, whether the renters have an owned (proper) home (rented out for a year)

Just wondering as it seems its increasingly popular to do this ....

twoterrors Fri 08-Jun-12 20:32:27

But none of those things prove you intend to move back do they? Loads of people round me move - really permanently, totally legitimately - to get their older child into catchment and rather than disrupt their younger children put up with schlepping them to primary till they leave. None of them as far as I know have been challenged. If they decide they hate their new area and move back, are they legit because that was not in their head when they moved?

Yes, a few months looks dodgy, but how do they prove you don't intend to make it permanent? I don't see how someone can be asked to prove what is in their head. You may not sell your house because market conditions are bad, or you are becoming a landlord for income, or investing in property, or many other legitimate reasons. Cheaters will be able to make a case on this basis, in the same way tat they find loopholes elsewhere, surely?

I don't think it is as black and white as all that, if you do all the paperwork and actually live in the rented house for, say, two years?

We can all agree that it is not a fair system, nor am I defending it, just curious about this 'thought crime' aspect of the CAF that has passed me by......

OhDearConfused Fri 08-Jun-12 20:33:21

tiggy I know (we all know) people who own a house and also have an investment property. If you move to house B (say, renting whilst shopping around or saving for the "catchment premium" smile) and keep house A (and rent that out as investment property) and do all the things to make your address house B, ie a genuine move (whether it is permanent or not really then does turn on the intention at the time - which a council can never find out). I know that is not OP's position, but the criteria you are describing also captures this type of person genuinely moving who also keeps the old place.

Good point re putting the onus on the applicant, though, I suspect this is the only solution.

OhDearConfused Fri 08-Jun-12 20:34:03

Same type of thought twoterrors at the same time!

twoterrors Fri 08-Jun-12 21:02:40

Almost exactly same thought!

Thing is, putting the onus on the applicant just seems to me to be back to the most plausible liars, the people that think far ahead about how to cheat (a family of five, say, moving into catchment a good year ahead of time, and staying say till oldest in year 8, next four children can occupy spaces for next oooh 15 years perhaps?), people that can play the system still get to play it?

I'd be interested in an example of the wording where councils have attempted to specify what a permanent address is other than on utilities, council tax etc etc.

teacherwith2kids Fri 08-Jun-12 22:07:52

twoterrors,

Our local 'desirable' school
a) checks address on application, address known by primary school, address on entry to the school and address at Easter of Year 7. Any discrepancies create a query...and quite a lot of people don't make it through the screening, some leaving mid-way through Year 7..
b) removed its sibling priority (and replaced it with 'siblings in catchment only') with the minimum consultation period required by law....
I notice that it's tweaked its admissions criteria again a bit this year - basically it seems to aim to create a climate of sufficient uncertainty that deciding how to play the system too far in advance conveys little advantage.

bibbitybobbityhat Fri 08-Jun-12 22:25:30

Scrapping the siblings rule will sort out an awful lot of this corrupt jostling for position.

I can see virtually NO argument for siblings getting an automatic place at any secondary school.

AngelEyes46 Fri 08-Jun-12 22:45:33

Bibbity - would you not want your dcs to attend the same school? My ds' started primary and we then moved to a bigger house which as the crow flies was about a mile away from the school (our old house was 0.9 miles away). The house we are in now is just out of catchment but due to being a different area, houses were cheaper hence as being able to move. As the sibling rule applied my dd got in but she wouldn't if she did not have any siblings. If the 'sibling in catchment' rule applied, then people would be loathe to move (other than in their immediate area). It would have been a nightmare for me to have dcs at different schools in primary (in secondary a completely different story).

bibbitybobbityhat Fri 08-Jun-12 22:50:23

My dc will not be going to the same school - they are not the same sex and we do not have the choice in my neck of the woods. If my dc can manage then I don't see why everyone else's shouldn't.

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Sat 09-Jun-12 05:33:57

Angel, we had children a couple of streets away from their nearest school having to travel a few miles instead because so many places were taken by siblings whose parents moved somewhere nicer once their pfb was safely in their chosen primary.

It caused a lot of resentment. The rules have changed now and are much fairer; usual looked after rule, in catchment sibs, catchment non-sibs, out-of-catchment.

At secondary it should confer no advantage at all -why on earth should it?

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Sat 09-Jun-12 05:36:28

Sorry Angel, I see you acknowledge the difference between primary and secondary blush

ripsishere Sat 09-Jun-12 06:45:03

I am in a tricky position. I have just returned from London where I attempted to rent a house.
The estate agents had bugger all to show me because 'a lot of people have rented them out in order to have an address to get their children into a decent school'.
IMO, that is immoral. I did manage to find one house and, fingers crossed it is ours. I now have the unenviable job of finding a school for my DD.
She is 11 and will go into seniors this year.

AngelEyes46 Sat 09-Jun-12 08:32:22

It is difficult re: siblings. I think I am still leaning towards the sibling rule should apply for primary but not secondary. As per my example, we had to move (2 bed house for 5 of us) but if we had stayed in the 'correct' area, would have cost us an addt 20K. As for the OP's initial question, if she looks at ripsi's comments, she may see the unfairness. However, what she's asking is whether she will get away from it and she may very well do so!

twoterrors Sat 09-Jun-12 09:37:38

Thanks for that example teacherwith2kids. That is the sort of thing I have seen before, and that applies around where I live, so nothing about your intention at the time of moving, or where you think of as your permanent home: it is down to actually living at the new address at certain times, and getting your paperwork in order. And if you moved for a couple of years you might well be fine. I take your point about moves to create uncertainty but I do think those will be hard to make fair in the long run, as people may well be able to come up with plausible - or indeed truthful - reasons for frequent moves, and some will be better at that than others!

On siblings, I agree with many here but also think that it is reasonable that families should be able to move to bigger houses as they grow (which often means moving off the doorstep of popular schools); and I think it is good for communities and for schools for families to have some certainty about schools so they can put down roots: would it work to define an area around the school that is a bit larger than that from which people usually get in, and that includes a good mix of housing, and say people can move within that and retain the sibling advantage, but if they move outside it, they take their chances with everyone else?

tiggytape Sat 09-Jun-12 09:54:05

twoterrors - frequent moves aren't a problem. People who rent often have to move frequently as landlords are liable to kick you out after 6 months.
It's having a "real" home sitting in reserve that makes any rented house a temporary one not a permanent one! Why would you hang on to your mortgaged, out of catchment house unless you planned to return there once you'd got a place using your rented address? And if you have a good answer to that question is negative equity or an uninhabitable house then you can prove this to the council.
You don't have to prove the contents of your head just hard facts about what innocent reason you would want to have 2 separate homes all of a sudden just as school admissions start.

teacherwith2kids - That's what our local schools have been doing too - changes to admission policy with the minimum consultation required by law. One school proposed the changes just before Christmas (too early for new pupils to be looking, too late for the new Year 7's to care) and it was all agreed by early Spring and came into effect the next September.
So in the space of 9 months they'd turned admissions process on its head and prevented a lot of people cheating from out of area to get a place.
I think it is a good idea. There is no way to stop people cheating really except making sure a % of them get caught and lose their places as a

Sibling policy is encouraged in schools but often abused in oversubscribed areas. There is a difference (morally) between moving slightly further away as a family grows and intentionally living in a studio flat just to get the oldest child into school then promptly moving 4 miles away to a bigger and cheaper property and sending both younger siblings to that school over the next 4 years.
In primary it causes huge issues - people living 400m from their nearest school cannot get a place as 25/30 places go to siblings. Which is fine except the next nearest school cannot take them, or the third nearest school. Some people end up being allocated their 10th or 15th closest school because of the sheer number of siblings getting priority. There used to be overlap - many siblings would also live in catchment but now many siblings live way outside catchment leaving no room for local children at all. Again there has to be a balance between what is fair for existing children and solving the problem of some local children without sibling being sent many miles away to school.

teacherwith2kids Sat 09-Jun-12 09:56:53

Twoterrors,

Your point on siblings - the 'priority admissions area' [= catchment, but worded to make it clear that people living in it are not guaranteed a place] around the school is, in fact, larger than the usual admissions distance [though this year, being a low number year locally, the two were more or less identical].

So yes, 'siblings in this priority admissions area' are very likely to be admitted from a slightly larger area than 'other children in this priority admissions area' in most years. It is quite possible, as long as the rules remain the same - and that is what I mean by creating uncertainty, there is no indication that the rules WILL remain the same - to move out to the edges of the priority catchment area and still get siblings in under this rule.

It is a secondary school, though - and I take the point above that the arguments for a sibling rule at primary are MUCH stronger than for secondary.

teacherwith2kids Sat 09-Jun-12 10:03:07

Tiggy - cross posted.

One thing I did not make clear in my first post was that the secondary school reuqests ALL addresses of that pupil during primary school, not just at the point of leaving. In the case of 'suspicious' moves - ie a family which has lived in a large family house for 6 years suddenly moves into a small flat next to the deisrable school just in time for applications to go in - then they investigate whether the family still owns the previous house, and that is one of the common reasons for a child whose place was obtained fraudulently being turned down or removed from the school.

tiggytape Sat 09-Jun-12 10:22:10

Teacher - That is a very good policy and hopefully one more schools and councils will adopt.
We were told that the address regsitered with the primary school could be checked but I don't know if they check every single address used throughout the pupil's time at school. Either way it is a good idea. The catchment areas are just so tight that it really isn't fair on the majority of people who play by the rules and take their chances (not to mention people in social housing who can't move and people too poor to rent an extra home for a year).

All it takes is for a few people to get caught and have their places withdrawn during Year 7, as has happened at Graveney and other popular schools, to make parents in subsequent years decide not to risk it (or to move house properly not just rent an extra home).

twoterrors Sat 09-Jun-12 12:02:49

Teacher, thanks for explaining.

I still don't think it is that black and white. What is one person's good reason may be another's idiocy, so I do think it could come back to a thought crime. I wonder whether deliberately creating uncertainty over the rules and then removing places because in the council's view the family's explanation fr their moves was not adequate, has been tested legally?

gazzalw Sat 09-Jun-12 12:07:11

Er I would actually say that people in social housing have more options to move than those of us who have our own houses but don't have the spare cash to move on a whim.

A lot of the children at DCs' school who live in social housing always seem to be house/flat swapping.... but strangely they don't seem to do it with an eye on the good schools - it seems to be about living closer to their families/in a larger house etc....

JenaiMarrHePlaysGuitar Sat 09-Jun-12 12:13:24

Maybe where you live gazza hmm

You can (and likely will) wait years to exchange, unless you live in a particularly desirable place, in many, many areas.

gazzalw Sat 09-Jun-12 12:24:27

This is in London - it seems to happen frequently and I'm not exaggerating. I can recall thinking that theoretically it would mean that people in social housing could move to the areas with better schools if they so wished but as I said I've not noticed that they use it for such underhand school gazumping practices - that is obviously a middle-class fraud!

Granted I don't know how long it takes although with families from school the moves have happened within one-two year time-frames I would say - judging by conversations and when the moves happened.

tiggytape Sat 09-Jun-12 12:38:04

twoterrors - it is about being fair. What possible good reason could someone have for renting a house in catchment when they already own a family home elsewhere and have lived in it for years right up until school places become an issue?

It isn't about thought crime.
Its a bit like saying you are not allowed to walk along the road with a baseball bat and if you do you will be arrested BUT if you can prove that your reason for carrying the bat is entirely innocent no action will be taken against you eg you can prove are a world class baseball player carrying a signed bat to a charity auction.
You could say merely carrying a bat along a road is not a crime because nobody can prove what thought is in your head when you carry it. But the law says there's unlikely to be an innocent explanation for having a bat so you're not allowed to do it and if you do then you'd better be able to prove it is for a good reason.

It is the same with rented 2nd houses and school places. Why would you rent a 2nd home in a school catchment area unless it was to cheat and not declare your 1st home? If you have a good answer to that question the council will act on that. If not, it is assumed you are cheating because of course you are!

teacherwith2kids Sat 09-Jun-12 12:59:05

Twoterrors,

As tiggy says, there are quite a lot of situations in which things are forbidden by law because of the likelihood that the intention of the action is unlawful or likely to lead to harm even if the unlawful act or harm has not yet occurred.

In those cases, as in the case of fraudulent moves for school entry, the onus is on the person who has carried out the act to prove why the act is innocent.

Note, having a succession of rented addresses of which the last is in catchent is not going to pose any kind of problem. Nor is selling one house and buying another in catchment. Nor is owning a 'buy to let' property in one area while actually living in catchment. All of those are, upon investigation, absolutely fine though they may initially be flagged up on the 'this looks odd' list. The specific scenario where intention of fraud is assumed until proved otherwise is the rental of a property in catchment while retaining a family house elsewhere, especially where no other reasons such as change of place of employment or change of family circumstances exist.

twoterrors Sat 09-Jun-12 13:39:45

Really? You can be arrested and presumably charged for walking along the road with a baseball bat? I had no idea. What is the crime?

Yes, I can see with a lot of the examples you give that it would be clear cut but what I am trying to say, clearly not successfully, is that there could be a grey area. Lived outside catchment in family home for 3 years, move into catchment for 2, move out again, for example.

I dont want to hold up an interesting discussion though, so without any actual examples of admission policies that specify these criteria (ie well beyond proof of address at various points), let's leave it.

teacherwith2kids Sat 09-Jun-12 14:09:08

Absolutely appreciate that there could be a grey area. The aim is to make that grey area as small as possible.

For example, for the school I have experience of, your example of a move into catchment for 2 years would ONLY work if the family home was sold or if it was clear that there was no intention to move back (e.g. permanent conversion into flats for letting as an investment, or if the family home was at such a distance that the commute was unfeasible, as would happen if a family moved into the area from another part of the country and rented in catchment because they needed somewhere to live in that town but had not yet had time to sell the old house) - as otherwise the trail that showed a continuous mortgage or other paperwork at the out of catchment house would be sufficient to trigger an investigation and possible removal of the child from the school.

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