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state schools in london. did you rent in the catchment or know people who did?

(114 Posts)
cheapandchic Wed 02-May-12 15:51:29

I have realised that where my home is positioned I most likely have no chance at getting into any of the schools that I want. I do not want to send my child to the school nearest me.

is it worth letting my house and moving closer? has anyone done this? how far in advanced to you have to do it? can you move out once that are in?

littleducks Wed 02-May-12 16:04:33

Sort of.

We needed to move areas, so got a house in a good position, near 3 good schools. Our application was late (council needed us to be physically moved in and paying council tax) and so dd did 1 term of reception at a further out school till she got a place from the waiting list.

I just accepted a place for ds at the same school, we have lived there nearly 2 years now. We will probably move (contract up for renewal soon) before he starts school on September, this may or may not be in catchment area depending what is on rental market at the time.

His place will not be taken away, regardless of where we move to.

BeingFluffy Wed 02-May-12 16:06:49

I have known people doing that for certain primaries in my area. In fact one is so notorious for it that they ask for the property deeds or rental agreement when the child applies.

I admit I did consider it when my elder child applied to secondary school - in the end my conscience got the better of me, as I knew I would be depriving someone more in need than us and in the end I let fate decide and in the end fate came up with a good option!

If you are going to do it - do so at least a year before the application deadline and hang on there for at least a couple of terms after your child has started the school. Bear in mind that catchment areas suddenly shrink and that if you have more than one child - some schools don't have sibling policies.

I don't mean to be rude but if you can afford the expense of moving and renting, why don't you go private and save yourself the hassle?

SchoolsNightmare Wed 02-May-12 17:50:52

If you do it, you need to genuinely move into the rented home. Hanging on to your old house though will hamper you as the LA can make a decision about which is your true address (and decide that suspiciously renting in catchment just before applications are due makes this a false address even if you are actually living there fulltime).

For example they will ask for council tax documents to confirm your address but they cross check these against council tax records on other properties you may own or have lived in. They can also, if not convinced, ask for other proof eg which Dr you are registered with etc. This doesn't seem to be universal but London does more checks because London has more school place issues than just about anywhere else. If you look at the admission booklet for the borough you are moving to in London it will often say something like:

"The address on the form must be your child’s permanent place of residence. It should not be a business, relative or carer/childminder’s address. You are not permitted to use a temporarily rented address to secure a school place for your child. The Local Authority will investigate any cases:
• where there are any doubts
• where information has been received from a school or member of the public to suggest a fraudulent application has been made
• where records show a recent change of address.
The Local Authority reserves the right to seek evidence from parents, Council records, primary schools or any other source deemed appropriate. We may also make a home visit and refer cases to the borough’s investigation officers where benefits are being paid. An application that uses false information may be subject to legal proceedings. If an application is found to be fraudulent after a place has been offered, the place will normally be withdrawn."

As you can see it is all full of dire warnings that this is not allowed but you can get around it by either genuinely moving house and selling your current house or renting longer term and in the meantime renting out your own house to tenants and changing your address on everything.

I am not condoning it although I understand your worries but it is not permitted in London so if you go this route, you are going to have to do something more permanent than just rent a flat and camp out in it for a few months.

Blu Wed 02-May-12 18:26:18

I know two famililes (not my close friends) who have done it at secondary level and I don't know how they manage it with their children, whether they involve them in the deception, tell them not to tell friends they are moving back to their old house, maybe they actually lie to thier children, I don't know.

cheapandchic Thu 03-May-12 09:29:35

We do not have the money for private. I would rent our house and use that rent to pay for the new one. We would move properly.

I was just wondering how long we might have to stay...

I am so stressed about this. I have visited 4 schools now, but it is all pointless... as actually because of my location I have no choice at all. Why have 6 choices on the application when I can only get into one school that is horrible!

KandyBarr Thu 03-May-12 09:32:08

I know a few people who've done this - it's a hassle, expensive, stressful but most concede it's worth it. And whether or not it's right from a moral point of view, it is within the rules. If you decide to go ahead, you'll meet plenty of other parents who have done the same.

Fluffy - the reason tends to be because, even after the hassle and expense of moving temporarily, it's cheaper than forking out for private schools for several DCs over the course of seven years for primary and six for secondary. Good preps in my part of London cost around £10k a year. So two children for prep alone = £140k. You can see the attraction.

SchoolsNightmare Thu 03-May-12 10:31:01

Nobody has 6 choices though really - well maybe if you are Catholic and pass two Grammar school tests and live near enough to 2 comps to get in and also have an undersubscribed comp further out.... then you might have 6 realistic options but very few people fall into that category.
Most people have 1-3 realistic schoices at best. Some people have none.

As Kandy says - it is within the rules to do as you plan as long as you rent your own home out (or sell it), change your address on everything and genuinely move into the new house for the duration.
You would need to do it late Summer before you apply (application deadline is October but you'd need to be living there with proof by this date and have your 'real' house rented out by then because of these checks) and you would probably want to stay there for the first term or at least half term of the new school because any change of address before could spark an investigation at which point they'd see your new address was in fact your old address and you would lose your place under the London rules about not renting to gain a place.
So about 14 months minimum. You might get away with less if it wasn't London and if it wasn't for the extra checks.

prh47bridge Thu 03-May-12 10:52:13

The problem you face with this is that if you subsequently move back into your old home the authorities are entitled to decide that you used an incorrect address and withdraw your child's place. They can do that even if your child is already attending the school. Believe me, it does happen.

Most LA's are on the lookout for people temporarily renting in order to get a place at a popular school. And there is always the risk that someone will report you to the LA, particularly if they think they missed out on a place because of your actions.

Contrary to KandyBarr's comment, it is NOT within the rules. Of course, some people get away with it but there are no guarantees.

SchoolsNightmare Thu 03-May-12 12:25:32

Sorry if I have given duff information. I thought it was one of those areas where technically it might be allowed if you kept up the pretence for long enough even though morally it is wrong (I think). I don't know what would be 'long enough' to be safe because, under the rules, anytime you move back to your old house, it becomes pretty obvious that the reason for renting was school place allocation and as prh says, this is not allowed.
And in London, the admission booklet spells out that this is not allowed (unlike other areas where it may not be acceptable but isn't emphasised so much as a breach of the rules).

If you stayed at the rented house for a long time then you'd probably have a much higher chance of getting away with it because they're not really going to withdraw a place from a year 8 or 9 pupil (probably) but I live in London as well so I know for a fact that not only are the authorities red hot on this issue but, if any other parent gets wind of what you are doing, they will inform the council in a heartbeat.
You'd have to tell your children that the old house was sold else expect them to lie to their friends both at Primary and at the new school. You may trust your immediate friends not to tell the plan but they tell other friends who tell other friends who have the same catchment area worries as you do and that's how the council finds out.

Places are just so scarce epsecially at popular schools. If you are going to cheat carefully (which is what this is really) you have to be prepared for the fact that it will take a lot of lying and planning and it may backfire on you in the sense that you can have the place taken away from you as soon as you inform the school of your new address (which any quick check will reveal is in fact your old address).

PanelChair Thu 03-May-12 12:27:48

Prh47bridge is right.

It's not the fact of renting that's the issue. After all, plenty of people live in rented property. Nor is moving home the issue. Plenty of people move home. It's the renting for a short time with no other purpose but to get into an oversubscribed school. LEAs are not stupid and are getting increasingly wise to the "I had a massive row with my husband and moved with my three children into my friend's one bed room flat, right next door to my favourite school, a fortnight before applications were due, but now a month after the start of term we've miraculously been reconciled and are living 3 miles from the school" sort of fabrication.

PanelChair Thu 03-May-12 12:32:46

SchoolsNightmare - Yes, I think you are right. Where LEAs have set out rules on what counts as a permanent address, it may be possible to comply with the letter of those rules and so get away with it, however cynical or fraudulent the reasons for the house move were. But, as I said, LEAs seem to be less gullible these days about 'convenient' moves of house and seem more willing to check them out and, in the most blatant cases of fraud, to take places away.

BeattieBow Thu 03-May-12 12:38:29

I know people who have done this - have rented out their house and moved in (in some cases with another family) to a teeny flat in the catchment of a school. I already know of one family that rented a flat but never lived in it to get into a primary. Their child is now in y6 and the other parents stil haven't really forgiven them! (including the parent of another child who didn't get into the school until y4 and who still blames this other family for that). you know its not very moral don't you? also people do tell on you, and the schools do find out.

I moved into London and was able to think about where I would be renting in relation to schools, and was fortunate in this case that it all happened at the right time. But I still feel a bit guilty about it even though it's all legit. I mean to stay in the area though long term and am not intending to move out of the local area (even though I may be beyond the teeny tiny catchment).

Also, the other point to remember is that the school could always change its policy in the future as regards siblings, so you may not be assured a place for any siblings.

KandyBarr Thu 03-May-12 13:29:20

prh is it really not possible to catchment-rent within the rules? How could you be penalised if you let your house, moved your family to home next to desired school in time for admissions criteria, and stayed living there, not returning to family home until DC well-established at the desired school?

I've never heard of a child being booted out of a school - either through my DCs schools or through stories in local or national papers (doubtless such organised parents would be straight on the blower to the Daily Mail).

I've known four families catchment-rent in London within LA criteria to get their DCs into heavily oversubscribed schools - might be questionable from a moral point of view, but how could their children be booted out if their parents complied with admission requirements?

tantrumsandballoons Thu 03-May-12 13:33:44

Sorry but do you mean renting a place, not living in it and telling the school a month later that you have moved?
So you get into a school under false pretenses taking away a place from a child who actually lives in the catchment area?

Are you looking for someone to actually agree that's a good idea?

We moved into a different area when dd was 2.
We actually looked at schools, decided where we would like her to go, and moved in- to actually live there.
I think it's pretty awful to even consider this tbh

breadandbutterfly Thu 03-May-12 13:41:21

I know a family that did this but am not sure if they sold their first place or rented it out. Don't think they felt guilty. Possibly nervous in case the eldest lost his place if he moved too early - I know they had to live in this fairly nasty inconvenient area for 2 years to prevent that. But all their 4 kids are now guaranteed a place at that school. Still, I know having to live on top of the school for 2 years (a pretty long time) - good school but the immediate area not very nice - was a pain for them.

What I'm not clear about though is if there are no good schools near you and you would move into another area, why are you holding onto your current house and renting it out, instead of selling it and buying in your preferred area near good schools? is the area much worse than your current area? Or are house prices much more? Still, why not sell if you're genuinely planning to move?

You'd have to move before making applications - but for popular schools it might be checked up on both that you have genuinely moved but also that you stay in that house for at least the first year of your dc's school life there - certainly cases of kids being chucked out in firat year if the renting is seen as not genuine; for some popular schools just owning a property elsewhere will be seen as ties to your old property so you would be excluded automatically.

O2BNormal Thu 03-May-12 14:03:28

Tanturms I'm not sure how yo can be so moralistic about it. You might have done it earlier, but if you chose the area simply for the school you did exactly the same thing - you're just able to feel all smug about it

It's just wrong, the system's wrong, but the whole "I must get my child into this school" thing is basically you (everyone) saying my child and what I want for him is far more important than any other child. Nice.

SchoolsNightmare Thu 03-May-12 14:11:35

No tantrum - even if you genuinely live in the rented house it is not allowed (and I agree with you - it is immoral even if you manage to keep up the pretence for so long that the LA decide they cannot withdraw your place by the time you come clean about moving back to your real home)

Rented houses are no problem - many people live in rented houses and this is their "real" address - their "real" home. But if you rent a house near to a school and keep your old house that's when it's a problem.
Because then the rented house isn't your real address. You have no intention of making it your home. It is just a place you live in for a year or so with the express intention of grabbing a good school place from some other family who do actually live closer than you.

And if the LA can prove that (or find out about it from another family) they can and do take away places. I know that London chase up suspicious house moves by checking council tax records. If you log a change of address shortly before you apply for school places, they will query this. Of course you can lie but if they are suspicious they can see from council tax records where you used to live and digging a bit deeper will show that you still in fact own this home.

BeingFluffy Thu 03-May-12 14:18:30

Effectively buying a place at school by moving and renting is an option not open to those in social housing, or those just making ends meet (moving fees, deposits, letting agents etc). Whether it is morally worse than feigning a religious belief for years, tutoring your child from the age of 5 or nurturing the various aptitudes that schools select on, I can't really say. It just appears that the wealthier you are the more you can manipulate the system in your favour and that seems bloody unfair!

SchoolsNightmare Thu 03-May-12 14:24:35

And everyone always says 'it is the system that is wrong' to excuse all sorts of wrong doing but actually the system is as fair as it can be - especially if people don't try to cheat it. How else could allocations be decided that was any fairer?..

...and I say this as someone who didn't get offered the school they wanted (or any of their 6 choices in fact) because of where I live. My local school is full with siblings and with people who live closer that I do. There has to be a way to allocate school places that recognises not everyone will get their choice - it is just not possible.
I may not be happy but having gone through 2 months of waiting lists and worry and preparing for appeals, I wouldn't wish it on anyone and I wouldn't deliberately subject another family to that by cheating them out of the place that was righfully theirs....

... so I do feel qualified to be moralistic about it because even having had the worst outcome (no school offer at all followed by an offer miles away to a school we didn't even list), I still don't think that this outcome justifies forcing someone else into that position instead of me.

Crouchendmumoftwo Thu 03-May-12 14:36:35

I don't think it's wrong at all. I know people who do it who are not wealthy at all and some are teachers. From my perspective we rented because our flat was too small and in a rough area with not great schools. We couldnt buy a house as we are self employed so we were forced to rent to move. We did it for more than a schools reason and we are now living in a big house in a lovely area and are into a fantastic school.
It is hard but it is our choice and it cost us approximately 10k to do it, sweat and tears doing up my flat to move, our rent doent cover the rent where we moved to, we have to fix all the problems in our old place and we can't do much in the rented place. The place we moved into was a disgusting dirty mess and we paid over £2k to make it decent of our own money. I work like mad trying to earn money and we are super stressed and have debts.
We chose to have children and we chose this route. Its hard but it is much nicer where we live, we wont ever move back. But it's not ideal. These are the choices we make and we are not helpless. Having a child is a choice and you cant blame everyone around you, you just have to get on with it. If we hadnt moved I would have been on waiting lists and that would have been ok, I know plenty of people who have done this and moved.

SchoolsNightmare Thu 03-May-12 14:49:57

Crouchend - I don't think you can argue this option is available to all concerened parents when you admit it cost you £12k to do it!
I didn't really understand from your post whether you cheated or genuinely moved and then moved again (as opposed to moving out then moving back into your original home again once schols were sorted).

There is a difference between a house move motivated by school places (perhaps also wrong but the price you pay is having to move home and a lot of hassle) and moving out for a year then going back home again (where all it costs you is cash and inconvenience but directly deprives another child of a place).

If the school system operated so that every school was forced to accept all pupils within a 1km radius, then there would be no losers as such if people effectively camped out in a flat for a year. But because school place numbers are limited, every place that goes to somebody cheating is a place that doesn't go to another child who genuinely qualified for it.
People seem to be saying that any system that doesn't agree that their child should be the one who qualifies for the best school is a system that it is justifiable to cheat which is horrible. You only have to look on the primary school boards to see the worry and real hardship missing out on your local school can cause people.

Not to mention the bad karma!

SchoolsNightmare Thu 03-May-12 14:51:19

bad karma for cheating that is!

BeattieBow Thu 03-May-12 14:58:34

crouchend that's why its immoral - most people simply can't afford it, and end up in those schools which the OP is presumably desperate to avoid.

fwiw having had 2 children go through primary school now, I really don't think that I would even contemplate this for primary school. It is immoral (imo) and dangerous, but I simply don't think that it is worth it for primary school. Your child will be fine and there is no problem with going on a waiting list if you still want to move. I can understand the desire/need more for secondary schools.

crouchendmum1 Thu 03-May-12 15:09:06

We did it because we wanted to move and renting is the only way and the school prompted us to do so. We moved to an area and hoped we would land near a good school we didnt pick it. People assume we moved because of the school which we didn't wholly. That money has put us in a lot of debt to move. People can move though and you just have to plan it and save for it work etc. Saying most people cant afford it, Im sure they could actually make it happen if they wanted to, we hardly earn anything we just had to do it. Im going to sound very Jeremy Kyle, but if you decide to have kids, these are the things you should take into consideration before having them ie not having money to make lifestyle choices. Kids cost money so dont have them in a area outside of a catchment of decent schools or if you do decide that you will make the best of them. Im sure it will all work out for you anyway.

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