should I grass up the new neighbours?

(175 Posts)
sybilwibble Thu 27-Dec-12 10:40:28

Met the new neighbours at another neighbours drinks party. Lovely mum and daughter, plus granny. Ask Mum, as you do, Where have you moved here from? Her response was that she only lives about a mile away, where they have a lovely family home, now sat empty, but they've rented the house in our road as it's right in catchment for the great local secondary. They've been here a month, and will find out on March 1st whether their dd will get a place (she will) then they will move back in a year.

Granny then tells me seperately, that they will be moving back in March, as soon as they get the letter from the great senior school, as they have not been successful in finding anyone to rent their family home from them. Either way, I'm a bit hmm. My dcs are younger so we're not applying this yr, so doesn't directly affect us...but would feel very sneaky calling the local authority... wwyd?

tiggytape Mon 31-Dec-12 11:05:44

The LA make a judgement call using the paper trail information but also ask the family involved why they've moved and if they are going to move back home again. LAs don't want to punish people - they just want to sort the applications out in accordance with the rules so they patiently work their way through any doubtful applications to get to truth in each case. In an ideal world, the LA want to intercept any fraudulent application very early on so that they can be ammended and the child offered a decent school near their real home. Catching cheaters late is awful for everyone because all the school places are allocated by that stage.

Rarely the LA may unjustly decide someone is cheating and force parents to appeal but this is very rare. In the vast majority of cases there is no innocent reason for renting a house for 6 months in a good catchment area whilst leaving the other family home empty, not on the market and not rented out.
If a family has a genuine reason for doing this (perhaps extensive fire damage that will take over a year to rebuild and put right) then of course the council will allow it. But if (as in most cases) the truth is the family just want a good school and know they don't live close enough to qualify so decide to rent for a little while to jump the queue, then this won't be allowed.

FestiveElement Mon 31-Dec-12 11:14:35

There are so many reasons that could lead to an incorrect judgement though. What about families where there are marital problems and the couple decide on a temporary separation, or where a parent moves closer to an elderly parent to be able to provide care, or where a family has intended to move permanently but then can't sell their property or find tenants for it, or where they have intended to move permanently , but have had problems with new neighbours, or have suffered because of an unscrupulous landlord?

It seems unfair to put those families through an extensive investigation, when they have no solid way of proving their case, when all they are doing is applying for a school place as they are required to be law.

prh47bridge Mon 31-Dec-12 12:44:45

Either the LA investigates and makes judgement calls or you have a free for all where the better off can deprive local residents of school places using short term rentals. Is that really what you want? If parents did not make fraudulent applications we would not have this problem.

You would be surprised how many families develop marital problems and separate just before the admissions round only to sort it all out and reunite as soon as their child has a place at the popular school they wanted. Moving close to (or even in with) an elderly parent to provide care is another popular ruse.

Yes, some moves are genuine. But experience suggests that the vast majority of parents who move into rented accommodation close to a popular school just before the admissions round are doing so in an attempt to defraud the system. And experience also suggests that the number of families incorrectly penalised by LAs is vanishingly small.

oldpeculiar Mon 31-Dec-12 12:59:13

There shouldn't be any room for judgment calls.
I have read the school admissions code and it seems to me to read that the admissions criteria needs to be in black and white not decided subjectively by some non-elected officer.
I wonder whether 'intentions' would stand up in court.Either the child is living in-area or they aren't.

libelulle Mon 31-Dec-12 13:07:07

"the better off can deprive local residents of school places" - That's a gross caricature, surely. On the whole it's likely to be the better off who ARE the local residents, ie those wealthy enough to buy in catchment in the first place! I find it hard to get worked up about parents playing the system in one particular 'disallowed' way rather than the many 'allowed' ways which are just as unfair. The whole system is based on wealth right now, and needs root and branch reform.

mumwithtwokids Mon 31-Dec-12 13:11:31

Not sure how they can be renting from December to March as secondary school applications had to be submitted in October confused so surely they must have registered with their real address. If this is the case then surely they will be able to see that they moved for a grand total of three months.

mumwithtwokids Mon 31-Dec-12 13:29:35

libelulle - It doesn't matter how many houses you own, the council will know they belong to you. You will still need to pay council tax for 6 months of the year even if vacant and you will also need to confirm to the council who your tenants are if you are renting it out.

Also to those of you who think they are doing nothing wrong then please explain that to those parents who come offers day had no school place for their child despite living within catchment. We all want the best for our kids but it should never be at the expense of others.

prh47bridge Mon 31-Dec-12 13:31:50

oldpeculiar - The admission criteria are in black and white. Judgement calls are required within the admission process for a number of reasons - to determine whether or not a child qualifies for special medical or social need, for example. I repeat, the requirement is to give the child's genuine permanent address when applying for a school place. Renting short term and using that to gain entry to a popular school is against the rules. Yes, "intentions" would stand up in court. "Intentions" are important in a wide range of cases, both criminal and civil.

libelulle - It is true that house values around popular schools tend to go up. But, as Tiggytape has pointed out several times, those who make fraudulent applications using rented accommodation do so at the expense of less well off families living on the edge of the catchment area. If we go down your path and allow anyone to rent in order to get into popular schools there will be several effects:

- house prices near the school will not go up as there will be no need to live near the school to get a place

- the better off will rent properties near the school to gain admission

- landlords with property near the school will jack rents up sky high for the admissions round

- less well off local residents will be excluded

ILoveSaladReallyIDo Mon 31-Dec-12 13:37:56

"On the whole it's likely to be the better off who ARE the local residents, ie those wealthy enough to buy in catchment in the first place!"

exactly, the ones that have to rent their way in or stay at grandparent's are the less well off - the victims of the system that allows the better off to choose to live permanently in better catchments

Being a good catchment raises house prices way above average so its very hard to "buy in"

Its not gonna be lots of fun renting temporarily is it? I'm sure most pople would rather buy in a preferred catchment in the first place but can't!

prh47bridge Mon 31-Dec-12 13:38:18

oldpeculiar - On the "intention" point, an example for you. The Theft Act 1968 S1(1) states, "A person is guilty of theft if he dishonestly appropriates property belonging to another with the intention of permanently depriving the other of it". The court therefore has to judge the intention of the accused. In most cases, of course, the intention is obvious. Where it is not the jury has to decide based on the evidence presented.

libelulle Mon 31-Dec-12 13:38:49

Yes but as I also pointed out, outside London you do not get 'less well off families living on the edge of the catchment area' - you just get well off catchments and less well off ones.

As for your first effect ('house prices near the school will not go up'), that one sounds pretty good to me! Number two is surely just a variation on what happens now, which is that the better off BUY properties near the school to gain admission.

I'm not saying that playing the system is pretty - I wish it didn't happen. But I'm saying that the system as it stands excludes less well off residents already. Wealthy residents playing the system in ANY way is unfair, so why focus your moral outrage on one particular manifestation of it? IMO there's a good argument for saying that if 'local' schooling becomes a way of ghettoising by wealth, then we should get rid of it. Many kids already have to travel vast distances because there aren't enough places, so let's equalise the system and use a lottery. Brighton have considered this already if I recall correctly.

VestaCurry Mon 31-Dec-12 13:45:25

Some schools now demand proof of residency in catchment for eg a minimum of 18 months.

prh47bridge Mon 31-Dec-12 13:48:50

Individual schools can use a lottery but the rules currently forbid an LA from using a lottery for all its schools on the basis that it means parents have no idea of their chances of getting in to any of their preferred schools.

I see the heartbreak caused to less well off families both inside and outside London by people breaking the rules. In my experience less well off families living on the edge of the catchment area being deprived is more common outside London where catchment areas tend to be larger.

I am not entirely happy about house prices going up near good schools but at least the people buying these houses generally intend to live there permanently and become part of the local community. Those renting have no intention of staying in the area and becoming part of the community. They simply want to deprive a member of the community of a school place that is rightfully theirs.

ILoveSaladReallyIDo Mon 31-Dec-12 13:56:52

"Those renting have no intention of staying in the area and becoming part of the community."

surely if they're sending their kids to the school they will be part of the community, whatever address they end up at by next year?

Its the BUYERS that shrink "real" catchment's round here, in one school, people living at the top of the road that the school is on within official catchment are out of proximity because every single house down the bottom of the road beside the school has been BOUGHT by people who moved there just for the school. Noone who's actually from that area can afford to buy down the bottom of that road (rent there temporarily? maybe?) because you can't sell your home up the top of the road for enough to make up the gap!

tiggytape Mon 31-Dec-12 14:06:13

libelulle - People who cheat are still few and far between.
Most people are not playing the system and even wealthier people aren't always savvy or lucky enough to buy in catchment years in advance even though they could afford to. For one thing schools change over time - so a good school in 2010 could be dire by 2012 and vice versa.
Also most people have no inkling how hard it is to get a school place until they come to apply (most assume living within a mile or so will be fine and find out far too late that even 700m isn't close enough in their year group) so not as many as you expect are manoeuvring years in advance.

The people who miss out to cheaters aren't sharp elbowed richer people who've reserved their space at a good school years in advance by throwing money at a particular house. Mainly they are just normal parents hoping for a local school and with no idea that anyone else would go to the trouble or expense of such a massive cheat as to uproot their family and rent a second home.

A lottery system has great appeal for many. It eliminates any benefit to cheaters for a start as they have equal chance no matter where they live. It also stops house price nonsense over catchment areas.
But is causes its own problems: if your child is the only one in the class not to get picked for the school everyone else is going to, it can be very upsetting.
Ditto splitting up siblings.
It can lead to more children having an awful school journey instead of just some of them - when children living literally next-door to one school are forced to attend another.
And oddly enough - all the studies on Brighton (the first area to have a lottery for the whole local area) showed it slightly lessened the chances of poorer children winning places at the most popular schools - that might just have been bad luck in the 2 years studied though but it was deemed shocking at the time that it had made things worse not better.

libelulle Mon 31-Dec-12 14:08:52

Well, we're on the edge of our catchment but we're reasonably well off - just not well off enough to live in the next door catchment! If we did rent a place there temporarily, we'd still not be as well off as those who can 'legitimately' buy a house there whether in central catchment or on the edge. We're lucky enough to have a got a place there anyway, though of course DD's younger sibling(s) may not be so lucky. Most years we would not get a catchment place at our local school either as we are not religious and live on the edge of the catchment.

The scandal to me is the system as it stands. People play the system because it is unfair. It pits school against school, atheist against religious families
and wealthy ones against less wealthy ones. Councils are providing insufficient school places for a growing population. School places were not an issue a generation ago, it should be within the power of government to make it so again. If there's a call to arms, there it is - not wealthy family a and slightly less wealthy family b playing the system whether within the rules or not.

JenaiMorris Mon 31-Dec-12 14:08:57

ime the parachutists don't really become part of the community, no. Once they move back out, they clog up the streets with their abysmal parking (all the school run clichés apply) and get in a piss if the local teens dare to use the skate ramp when their children wanted to run up and down it (there's a perfectly well equipped, super really for the size, play park alongside).

Yes, I have a bit of a chip on my shoulder about this grin

prh47bridge Mon 31-Dec-12 14:09:29

I disagree.

Whilst I was trying to get my youngest into our local primary school we had to send him to another school in the next town. He was part of the school and we were part of the school community but we are not part of the local community for that school, nor would we be even if he was still going to that school. Indeed, as we were not part of the local community we were outsiders within the school community, if you see what I mean.

My oldest son is now going to secondary school. Again, it is some distance from our home for reasons I won't explain here (but it doesn't involve renting!). We are part of the school community but we are not part of the local community around that school nor will we ever be.

prh47bridge Mon 31-Dec-12 14:12:39

Sorry - I was disagreeing with ILoveSalad in case that wasn't obvious!

Agree completely with Tiggytape.

ILoveSaladReallyIDo Mon 31-Dec-12 14:14:55

libelulle I agree, the "enemy" is councils that see schools where edge of catchment is outside of proximity and do nothing about providing more school spaces there, just go on a witch hunt investigating everyone's paperwork instead!

JenaiMorris Mon 31-Dec-12 14:50:07

Doing away with sibling priority helped here, so that it was no longer enough to move here for a few months if you wanted all your children to attend the school.

Siblings within the parish still get priority, but those outside with an alternative school nearer by don't.

losingtrust Mon 31-Dec-12 15:40:35

I am on the fence on this one and would not report. Having lived in an lea where the council believed in social engineering making my local school out of reach for my ds even though it was a short walk away I had to move to an area where I knew dc's would get in to local school and in the meantime had to use a faith school (was already practicing). It made me always check that wherever I was buying was in catchment and was a decent school although as mentioned above this can change. To be honest if you have parents going to so much effort to get their child in, you would imagine they would lend their support and be good for the school. As many have said it is difficult to sell now and you may be stuck. It may be morally wrong but so in the same case is selling and moving just before the admissions. Yes it may be they need to drive but so do the vast majority of working families who work outside the school area. We are no longer a nation where mothers (typically) have the time to walk their kids to school.

DontmindifIdo Mon 31-Dec-12 16:36:08

thing with the lottery system, it's impractical, not everyone can drive, many chose to live relatively close to schools/public transport so they can walk to them, the lottery system assumes all parents are able to and are prepared to trapse across town to their DCs schools even if they live walking distance to one they'd be prepared to use. While 'sharp elbowed cheats' might be prepared to deal with the logistics of having moved back to their original house and have to drive their DCs to school, it doesn't mean everyone thinks having all the children in an area having to be driven/put on buses every day and noone being walking distance to school is a good idea. (quite frankly it's rubbish idea if you care about the environment at all)

Scrapping sibling places is a good policy - I know several people who aren't cheating as such, but have pre-schoolers, do want more space, can't afford it near the school of their choice so are planning on coping in a small place close to the school, until the eldest gets into it and then will move further away (as round us prices do reflect the closeness to a good school, so you can get an extra bedroom for the same money 1/2 mile away).

teacherwith2kids Mon 31-Dec-12 17:28:04

I would pass the information on to the council, for them to do as they see fit.

So not 'I am reporting this family because they are applying for a school place fraudulently', but 'I observe that my neighbours Mr and Mrs A of B address have moved in on X date. They have stated that their intention is to move out on Y date once school places have been allocated. They also own another house in Z area.'

We live on the very edge of the admissions area of a very popular school. Cracking down, in a very high-profile and well-publicised way, on those trying to obtain places fraudulently, as well as moving to admissions rules that penalise abuse of the sibling rule (by removing priority for siblings if the family has moved out of the wider catchment) has resulted in an oversupply of places, for the first time in many years - so that in fact all reasonably local children, even beyond the catchment area, have been able to gain places ...

mumwithtwokids Mon 31-Dec-12 18:58:41

To be honest if you have parents going to so much effort to get their child in, you would imagine they would lend their support and be good for the school.

I really don't know what to make of this comment confused

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