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School application from rented address - nothing council can do?

(89 Posts)
StandoutMop Mon 25-Jan-16 13:59:24

A passing acquaintance (our dc were at nursery together but now at separate primaries) has moved into a rented house in order to get her eldest a place at their preferred secondary.

Their own home (which they own) is being rented out but they plan to return once dc is in the school, then repeat the rental trick for dc2 (as non-catchment siblings don't get any priority).

I know this is the case as she told me quite happily when I commented about how frequently I was passing her in street and asked if she had moved.

My dc aren't same school years as her's so won't affect me, but seems unfair on those living in catchment to me. (Slightly ashamed to admit this but) I called the council to ask if this was allowed and they told me that it is against the spririt of the rules, but there is nothing they can do if that is what people choose to do, as long as they don't move back before the dc start school.

Really? Do they have no powers to stop people playing the system like this? Seems crazy to me, and opens the system up massively to abuse by those who can afford to rent / move temporarily while local families lose out.

ThenLaterWhenItGotDark Mon 25-Jan-16 14:01:47

The council in question can't have seen the documentary last year showing how many people are "caught" doing this by specifically employed people who check applications and addresses etc. A couple of families on the documentary were caught out IIRC.

TeenAndTween Mon 25-Jan-16 14:13:12

Many councils have rules explicitly banning from applying from rented whilst still owning a house nearby.
To be honest I'm a bit shocked if they don't all have such rules.

Lucsy Mon 25-Jan-16 14:17:50

I know someone who did this blatantly.
Moved back in July before School started.

They got away with it. Makes me angry as we didn't get a place, but played fair and appealed and won but it was very stressful and difficult and expecting the same again this year.
The school and LA were aware but did nothing.

Brightnorthernlights Mon 25-Jan-16 14:57:09

I know a very well off family who have sold their family home (as the school requires rental applications to show proof of sale of their previous home). They have rented one of the very few family homes available next door to a semi selective, extremely sought after school that only offers a handful of 'distance' places. They plan to gain a place for their youngest and then buy back in the area where they were previously. The school has a non catchment sibling policy, therefore their other children will all attend the school.

The 'distance' places are supposed to be offered to local children, to keep a sense of fairness, with regards the local community. They say they have done nothing wrong as some parents are using their childrens academic strengths to gain an advantage, whereas they are using their financial advantage! shock

Orlando16 Mon 25-Jan-16 16:44:06

I'll be honest with you, after finding out that our dd's first choice catholic secondary school had changed its criteria last year, which means it's now touch and go whether dd will get a place, we too considered renting closer to the school but couldn't go through with it as it's morally wrong. We own our house and didn't want to sell it and move as it's taken us years to get it how we want, so we are just hoping for the best.

I don't see how councils can allow people to do this though. Fair enough if you rent a home and then move to another rented how closer to the school but if you own a house then that is the address that should be used for the application. Dd's primary is a feeder for the secondary we want her to go to and we had a phone call in November to double check we lived there and apparently the council do this for everyone, so it's very unlikely we'd have gotten away with it had we have chosen to rent close by but also keep our house.

bojorojo Mon 25-Jan-16 16:48:57

It may not be the Council that is the Admissions Authority. It may be the school itself, as is often the case with RC, some C of E and all "Aided" Schools and lots of academies. It is a total mess really.

tiggytape Mon 25-Jan-16 16:57:48

Most councils have really specific wording that prevents this. Some don't have such precise wording but will still would not allow a rented address to be be defined as the child's usual home when the family still own a home nearby that they have not disposed of.

In the case of a wealthy family who can sell, rent and then buy again later, nothing can be done to prevent that. They have disposed of the first home so the rented address is their only home when they apply.

In the case of a family renting out the family home to rent a house closer to a school, only if the family home is in another part of the country or rented out for such a long time that it is effectively "disposed of may this be O.K but generally, if the council picks it up on council tax records, they will just switch to using the owned not the rented house.

A final point for most admissions queries is that even if you ring the admissions number you won't necessarily be speaking to the actual admissions staff - just the front desk who can answer basic queries but not technical or more procedural questions. As such it is entirely possible that this is not how the council will treat such an application in practice. It used to be common for them to have little idea how to prevent this in the past but now, with such huge demand for places and parents knowledgeable about the rules, most do check for it and prevent it.

tiggytape Mon 25-Jan-16 17:04:50

..and it isn't true that she will get away with it as long as she moves back home after September either.

Places can be removed even after a child starts at a school. Record numbers of children lost their places in this way last year and there's every reason to think that it will continue to be something councils do more and more because of the competition for places due to sheer numbers applying.

There was a 50% increase in the number of offers withdrawn last year and that doesn't include the number of offers intercepted long before the offer and acceptance dates in March and April (i.e. the problematic applications spotted in time to force the parents to change the form to show the correct address)

StandoutMop Mon 25-Jan-16 19:04:44

Thanks for all your thoughts. Man I spoke to at council said they "weren't allowed to investigate" applications. But maybe he was just talking rubbish and they do check.

Will find out in March I guess when offers come out. I might call again and see if I get a different person / answer though.

tiggytape Mon 25-Jan-16 19:30:00

Man I spoke to at council said they "weren't allowed to investigate" applications. But maybe he was just talking rubbish and they do check.
He's talking rubbish or he's misunderstood and means they won't discuss outcomes with people who report suspicions.

All councils and admission authorities have a duty to ensure places are allocated in accordance with the published criteria.
Part of that involves a routine check of the council tax history of everyone applying.
If such initial checks shows a family listed elsewhere or a recent suspicious move to a rented house, then they have to investigate. It is true they don't investigate everyone in detail (only where there are red flags) but they do check everyone at least.

Some councils do the extra checking (or investigations) of suspicious applications by visiting the listed addresses to ascertain true address. Some do it by checking the address registered on file for that child with the primary school or DVLA or GP or child benefit. Some do it by looking at Land Registry. Some use a combination but all councils have to check everyone and then investigate some people. If there was no checks and they took everyone on trust, most people would claim to have an adopted child with 6 siblings already at the school and an address opposite the school gates!

defunctedusername Mon 25-Jan-16 21:51:57

This is all wrong. The admissions system is set up to keep privilege entrenched. We need a massive change in how we allocate school places so we can stop wealthy parents buying/renting houses to get into good schools.

Get rid of grammar, religious, free, academy schools etc. and put the council in charge of them all. Parents should be forced to send their children to the local school, good or not. That is the only way we will all be equal. Get rid of the idiotic needs improvement Ofsted ranking and invest in our schools until they are all good.

tiggytape Mon 25-Jan-16 22:25:48

In many cities it would be impossible to force everyone to go to their most local school - the population densities are such that there would need to be a school built on every corner to make that a reality - or an acceptance of class sizes far exceeding 40 children.

And of course a guaranteed place at a named local school could serve to further entrench privilege. In countries where a school place is entirely dependent on home address, it results in some school districts having far more resources, far better outcomes and a much narrower social-economic groups of pupils than others. There are desirable schools near expensive housing and less desirable schools in poorer neighbourhoods with no chance to escape or go elsewhere.

At the moment we have a system that does (usually) take distance into account along with other factors including genuine need but I do agree that people who use money to cheat the system (paying £2k per month in London to rent near a good school and also retain a family home just outside catchment for example) should be stopped. Councils are getting better at dealing with this. A few years ago some councils surveyed didn't believe it was something many parents would bother with in their area. Now virtually all of them are very hot on checking and taking action.

Foxyloxy1plus1 Tue 26-Jan-16 16:42:26

I think all methods of attempting to butt the system are morally unsound and very unfair to those who abide by the rules.

I'm amazed the council has said there is nothing they can do, as I was under the impression that places could be withdrawn if it's discovered that someone has tried to circumvent the system.

NorthernLurker Tue 26-Jan-16 16:48:35

Are you absolutely sure the situation is what the parent said it was though? For example what if you were living in a house with hefty mortgage and high rental value. If you were is straightened circumstances it might make financial sense to rent out your home to cover the hefty mortgage whilst you spent your income on lower rent. If you got a school advantage out of the situation, well that's an added plus. I certainly wouldn't tell somebody I met in the street that that was the case. Likewise what if divorce is possibly on the cards. Again one party might not want to tell random school run mum that's why they are living where they are and they may or may not go back.

alejandro Tue 26-Jan-16 17:49:30

For what it's worth, looking a school options for us down the road, we have noticed that a couple of the very popular schools in our area have had quite a significant change in the distance cut-off (further distance that still got an offer) published by the council.

We've been told that this is down to council having tightened the screws in a major way in how they inspect, check and withdraw offers related to this well know trick of middle class families trying to get a step ahead.

StandoutMop Tue 26-Jan-16 18:38:13

I'd be surprised if rent is less than mortgage NorthenLurker, especially given the school catchment premium.

Divorce scenario is possible, but I'd just say yes I've moved in those circumstances, not tell the enquirer I was playing the admission system!

AgonyBeetle Tue 26-Jan-16 18:52:29

The intake area of a high-profile sought after girls school near us more than doubled last year, compared to previous years. This appears to be the direct result of the LA clamping down on people playing the system by means of creative address management.

hmm

StandoutMop Tue 26-Jan-16 19:53:15

Here's hoping our LA does likewise Agony (not convinced but live in hope).

Thankgoditsover Tue 26-Jan-16 22:11:17

Blimey agonybeetle I've just looked at the admissions for the high profile girls school near us and they're extraordinary. 2014 a top band radius about the size of my kitchen cupboard. The next year, it's 10 times bigger.

I wonder if we're talking the same one? It's now worth a place on our daughter's caf form...

Bolognese Tue 26-Jan-16 22:33:45

Its hard to say its a moral issue, maybe illegal (in this case NOT), but certainly not immoral.

In this case a parent rents in an area to get into a school, (maybe they could never have afforded to buy that close, we just dont know), but in the process deprives a child living further out from getting a place. Is that anymore or less moral than a wealthy family buying a million pound house next to the school but actually living in it for the sole purpose of getting their children in to the school, which also deprives children living further out from getting a place. Or indeed a family starting to go to a church just so they can jump up the admissions criteria which would also deprive children living further out from getting a place. Or private tutors for the grammars, or any number of ways to jump the admissions system.

The whole admissions criteria involves doing everything possible to get into a school and I challenge any parent not to stretch the 'truth' in an appeal to get the final place in a good school (and send their DC to a bog standard comp) ahead of a more deserving child who lives further out.

This is a very sanctimonious thread filled with posts of 'I should get into the school, because I live in an expensive house in the right area and we dont want those less deserving parents playing the system to get in'.

The op should be more honest and fess up to her acquaintance that she has tried to stop her DC getting in to the good school. Who is really the immoral person in this tale?

Crouchendmumoftwo Tue 26-Jan-16 22:55:48

Agree with Bolognese.

You really ought to mind your own business and concentrate on your own life. You come across as sneaky and two faced with too much time on your hands. What she is doing is not illegal and to interfere with her life and potentially her kids future is none of your concern at all.

You act like one of those surburban curtain twitching busybodies.

I know people who have moved and rented to be near a school as they were not in a catchment for a decent school. I would dream of getting involved in their affairs.

Lots of people taking the moral highground here.

I would not be able to sleep at night knowing I was putting an 'acquaintance' and their children who Id known from nursery in jeapordy.

It reminds me of the second world war and the Germans shopping their Jewish neighbours to the SS. Friendly to their faces and kind and behind their backs nasty, judging and cruel.

Maybe next time you see her you should make a citizens arrest!

PrimeDirective Tue 26-Jan-16 23:14:07

There were a couple of parents who did this at my DC's school. There's almost nothing that the LA can do about it. The families had genuinely moved to the rented house while work was being done on their owned home with a view to selling it. They later decided not to sell so moved back home. There is nothing the LA could do, their original application was valid and their reasons were plausible.

alltouchedout Tue 26-Jan-16 23:20:12

Reporting someone who is acting fraudulently to unfairly obtain a school place remind you "of the second world war and the Germans shopping their Jewish neighbours to the SS" Crouchendmumoftwo? Really now? confused

Crouchendmumoftwo Tue 26-Jan-16 23:33:37

Yes absolutely it isnt actually 'fraudulent' or 'unfair' only in your eyes it is and hers. Its a very subjective matter. It isnt even illegal. It isnt even any of her business and disgusting that she should be involving herself in her affairs and calling the council.

We have seen this judging in history, 'shopping' of neighbours behind their backs. Spite and jealousy driven. Pretending to be friendly whilist stabbing her in the back and dressing it up as being moral and fair. Its ageless and happens again and again in communities. Petty small mindedness.

Judge not, and you shall not be judged: condemn not, and you shall not be condemned: forgive, and you shall be forgiven.

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