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Renting close to secondary school to move up admissions waiting list

(31 Posts)
BellaGallica Sun 07-Jul-13 07:52:04

I've heard from a reliable source that a local family has just done this over the last half term. Their son, who was on the waiting list for their preferred school, jumped to the top of the list and has now been offered a place.

Would the LEA normally look into a change of address before offering a place? Our LEA 's website just says that the parents need to provide evidence such as a rental agreement in the event of a move. I think that in this case the family also owns a house close by but the place was offered very quickly, so it seems unlikely that any further checks were made to see if the move would be considered suspect.

It may well be that the move is completely legitimate, but it does sound as if it's worth a few questions. Would they do this if I report the case? We are in West London.

I feel very strongly that this is potentially cheating the system and cheating other children. I know of several children still on the waiting list. And before anyone asks, yes, this does include my own child who was no 9 on the list in April but no 13 in June! She has a decent 2nd choice but I would still prefer her 1st choice.

Branleuse Sun 07-Jul-13 07:53:32

i dont know, but id probably mind my own business about it

JakeBullet Sun 07-Jul-13 07:59:08

Tbh if they have legitimately moved then officially they have done nothing wrong.

Yes, in theory they have manipulated things but if they remain there for the requisite time while their child goes through school then fair enough.

JakeBullet Sun 07-Jul-13 08:01:12

Which address are they paying council tax on? That is key, if they are renti g out the owned property and paying CT on the rented property then it's legit.

PareyMortas Sun 07-Jul-13 08:02:15

We had to provide a copy of the rental agreement (min two years) before a place was offered. Ours was a genuine move.

SanityClause Sun 07-Jul-13 08:06:18

Councils are wise to this, and do check to make sure people actually live in the house, and have legitimate reasons for moving.

If they investigate, and decide that the house move was not legitimate, the place can still be taken away. And this family is likely to be high on their radar, under the circumstances you have outlined.

So, perhaps just leave the council to do their job?

prh47bridge Sun 07-Jul-13 09:03:25

Some LAs are better than others at picking up this kind of thing. Most will, at a minimum, check council tax records (which doesn't take very long). Also if there is a history of people renting to get a school place they will view this kind of change of address with suspicion.

If this is a genuine move and the family intend to continue living in the rented accommodation they have done nothing wrong. However, if this is a temporary move to get a place the LA can take the place away even after their son has started at this school.

It is, of course, possible that your reliable source is mistaken. Personally I would report it to the LA who should then investigate. It is, of course, possible they have already done so and are happy the move is legitimate.

AuntieStella Sun 07-Jul-13 09:13:25

London councils are pretty hot on this. But people do need to move house for all sorts of reasons, and going up the waiting list could be. The silver lining to an unavoidable cloud. If the move is real and permanent, they they have done nothing wrong.

If you suspect sharp practice, then you need to report them and let the LES get it settled one way or another.

NotFluffy Sun 07-Jul-13 10:41:33

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

teacherwith2kids Sun 07-Jul-13 11:12:48

In your position, I would report it factually to the LEA.

BellaGallica Sun 07-Jul-13 14:06:13

Thanks for the various comments.

It's Ealing. It may well be a perfectly legitimate move and already checked out by the council, in which case there is no issue and the system is working as it should. But I don't know whether Ealing is generally geared up to making enquiries or whether they simply follow the distance criteria without making further checks. I can imagine that it's easier for councils to do this than to allocate resources to uncovering potential manipulation. Their website suggests that a simple rental agreement is sufficient evidence of a change of address.

The place has already been offered and accepted so if the family have 'cheated' then they have taken the place from another child.

NotFluffy Mon 08-Jul-13 09:26:27

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

Swanhilda Mon 08-Jul-13 09:50:17

I think it is possible to own one property and rent another, which is nearer. All that matters is that you actually LIVE in the nearer one, which means evidence of properly residing there.

Is this Drayton Manor? I am interested because I have my child on waiting list for another school (Faith School) and it is definitely frustrating being trumped by late admissions.

Swanhilda Mon 08-Jul-13 09:57:42

Also, you never know whether the child may not have got in on Appeal as well as moving nearer. To win a place on Appeal takes an enormous amount of effort on part of the parents, you could say that the parents being prepared to move into what is a smaller property or take on financial burden takes the same amount of effort/risk/personal sacrifice. Sometimes people feel so strongly about their child needing a place at a particular school they will go to these lengths. I don't think it is cheating, any more than getting your child tutored to pass an exam as cheating, it is just using whatever resources you have in your power to use for your child's benefit. After all, most catchments for most good schools tend to be on the pricy side to start with, out of the reach of a lot of people who might have wanted to send their children there if they had a choice in the matter.
So I suppose fairness doesn't come into it. It is a marketplace.

prh47bridge Mon 08-Jul-13 09:59:22

You must live in the nearer one but it must also be your permanent address. Living in the nearer property temporarily then returning to the owned property once you have a place is against the rules. And most councils would view a situation where you own one property and rent another as suspicious unless they are a long way from each other.

tiggytape Mon 08-Jul-13 10:47:21

Winning at appeal does require effort – that is true. But it isn’t there to reward all ambitious enough to push for it. An appeal requires parents to prove they need a place at the school to a panel of independent people. It allows some needs to be met that wouldn't be met if the appeal system didn't exist. Parents saying they want a good school not a rubbish one don't win appeals.
Most councils now check council tax history and if the family still own a property that was previously used as their family home, they cannot use a different address for school applications even if they live in that new address for a few months. Obviously if the two addresses are 100 miles apart, the parents can argue their case that this is a genuine relocation but 2 or 3 miles apart or less and they'd be hard pressed to prove they were doing anything other than cheating.
It isn't a market place – it is allocating public resources as fairly as possible. Yes - there is inherent unfairness in the system - any system. But cheaters displace those on the fringes of the catchment areas not in the centre of them and if councils allowed this, apart from unfairness, they'd be absolute chaos. Many parts of London are short of school places. Some children this year and in future years will be forced to travel miles to school and will be denied any local place at all. If you allow a system to flourish whereby parents can pick and choose who will suffer and rent flats next to schools to secure a place, the whole system will fall apart at times when demand exceeds supply as it is.

sillyname Mon 08-Jul-13 14:14:48

What Tiggy said. Despicable to behave in this way.

A good state education should not be reliant on how sharp your parents elbows are, however they dress it up in phrases like "making sacrifices" and "using resources wisely"

Report and let the council investigate.

Swanhilda Mon 08-Jul-13 15:25:21

But surely if someone decides to move house two years before secondary school into a area which is more likely to be within catchment, that is almost as bad as someone moving two weeks before. They both displace the person on the fringes of the catchment.
Which is what happens in some primary schools where there is literally 500m catchment round school due to all the siblings of those who moved out again after decent interval taking up the spaces. A quota is actually a much fairer way to do it, with a reasonable distance from the school being used as a cutoff.

Which is what WLFS does.

BellaGallica Tue 09-Jul-13 13:23:00


We spoke the the council this morning. They said they check to see if the tenancy is for at least 1 year and that the new tenant is paying council tax at the address. They may additionally send someone round early in the morning to see if the family is in occupation.

However, they said they don't normally make any checks to see if the previous address has actually been vacated. They just said that as the area is expensive most people would not be able to take on a tenancy for a year without letting out or selling their existing home.

It may well be that everthing is completely above board in this case, and it may be that the council will take a second look at this, but to be honest they didn't sound very interested. I don't necessarily expect them to tell me that they will act, but I do want to feel confident that the rules are being properly followed and implemented.

Without late moves up the waiting list since March, I'm pretty sure that my child would by now have been offered a place, so I do want to reassured that the council is doing more than a cursory check.

tiggytape Tue 09-Jul-13 14:00:22

Bella - exactly. It really doesn't take any time at all for the council to check this and it is ridiculous for them to spend resources sending people on dawn raids when they could simply click a button and see if the person in the rented house also stil owns a property just outside catchment area.
You can't rely on the fact that it is an expensive area. What is 1 year's rent compared to 7 year's school fees which is what many people tempted to cheat will be weighing up?

Swan - Those are the rules which some areas enforce better than others so that's the difference. If you're talking morally the difference is one family are setting up home and genuinely choosing to live near the school they want. The other family are using the fact that they have £24k sitting in the bank to buy themselves a decent school place with none of the hassle of actually moving house or sacrificing their big house outside catchment for a small one inside catchment or commiting to the area in anyway except swooping in to steal a place and moving off again as soon as they have it.

BellaGallica Wed 10-Jul-13 00:21:50

Is there any way to get the council to enforce the rules then? If they don't routinely check whether families are renting alongside ownership then it does look very easy to play the system and it suggests that the council is turning a blind eye. Is it worth approaching my local councillor to follow this up?

prh47bridge Wed 10-Jul-13 00:40:17

Try your local councillor. Point out that whoever is at the top of the waiting list has a good case for appeal if the council isn't doing a proper job of checking that addresses are correct.

Swanhilda Wed 10-Jul-13 23:59:45

Tiggy I do agree with you, it is just that I can see that unless you include a dimension of time lived in the area (rather like faith schools saying that length of time spent worshipping is important, rather than just straight baptism) it is a bad way to allocate school places because richer people can always decide to live "nearest" the good schools. And even people who have lived in an area two years will trump someone who has lived their all their lives, just for the sake of 500 m..
Bella I hope your place comes up, and I hope mine does too!

BostinSteveAustin Fri 12-Jul-13 20:58:29

Do schools really ask you to prove you have minimum tenancy of 2 years?

Mine is a rolling tenancy - so legally I couldn't prove I was going to be staying here longer than 2 months as the landlord could give notice at any time. Before this I have only ever had 6-month or 12 month tenancies.

I have to do secondary application this autumn - we live very near a good school but I think it's over-subscribed. Do you think I will be able to apply if I have council tax bills going back a few years to prove we are really local? We haven't always lived in the same house but have always lived quite near to this school.

tiggytape Fri 12-Jul-13 22:12:20

Bostin - the 'tough' proof is asked from people who move into a house like yours (i.e. next to a good school) a few months before school applications deadline - suspiciously timed moves or moves to an address that's been used before can trigger a lot of digging by the council.

It is good though that councils can use discretion about which address they will accept - it protects people in your situation. If there was a strict rule about how long the tenancy had to be, people would find ways to cheat. They'd just pay for a year if that's what it took.
Whereas in your case, it is obvious it is your real home even if the tenancy is shorter. You have no other homes that you've lived in recently, you can prove you've been there for ages with bills, your children's primary school will have it on record that it is your registered address, your Dr will have it as your address for years running so you will be fine.

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