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Friend renting to get a school place - WWYD?

(48 Posts)
Lotsofsighing Thu 11-May-17 12:30:58

Hmm I don't really know why I'm posting this as it's highly probable I'm going to do nothing and I certainly wouldn't want to talk about it IRL, but I've just been mulling it over and was looking for expert/sensible perspectives.

My DD tells me that her friend's family are going to move house, about a mile away (we're in London) into an area that I know to be in the catchment of a very sought-after school. They own their current property, which they'd keep, and they'd move to a rented place. The borough in question has had some very high-profile cases of this being done and as a consequence has changed the wording of its admissions policy so that it now says that if you own another property then they will take this to be your permanent address even if you're living in another rented property.

I strongly feel that renting to get a school place is wrong since it means that another child is denied a place that is 'rightfully' theirs. It also seems to favour the middle-class and well informed above others. I know many others disagree and think so long as the family is genuinely living, albeit temporarily, in the rented place that's fine.

Also, where they currently live in near to a very good secondary, just not one that has quite the same prestige.

So WWYD?

a) nothing, it's none of my business

b) let them know that what they're doing is highly likely not to work. I'm not sure they're aware of the rule change. I really like these people and would rather they didn't go to all this hassle only to find it's been a waste of time and money.

c) go nuclear and report them to the council on their anonymous frauds admissions line. I don't think it makes any difference to my own dc's applications though we are slightly nearer the sought-after school and since the rule change have become much more likely to get a place (in other words, the catchment before was artificially small due to the high number of parents doing the renting-ruse - I personally know of about half a dozen).

GuestWW Thu 11-May-17 12:42:08

Fume internally but do nothing. They aren't renting yet / children sometimes misunderstand things...

bojorojo Thu 11-May-17 12:45:04

If the Council has a policy of taking the owned property as the home address, then you do not need to do anything. The Council will presumably check addresses, the electoral roll and ask for bills etc to prove length of time at the rented address. If they have lots of problems, they will be used to doing this. I would stay quiet, especially if you are more likely to get a place.

It is cheating to try and do this, however, and does deny qualified children of their place. I assume your friend does not know about the policy and you do not have to tell her. It is up to her to find out and it is probably made very clear in the school transfer information. So do not go nuclear and keep your own counsel!

Lotsofsighing Thu 11-May-17 12:59:48

You're absolutely right GuestWW, I'm getting this story from my dd who might well have got confused (it's just that the child in question is the right gender for the school and first born so a move would result in a whole raft of younger siblings getting in...).

And you're also right Bojo, the council will presumably pick up on it if (and this might be a big if) they do follow their own hastily imposed new code.

I'm just reassured to be told that I'm not deranged for being irked about this.

NWgirls Thu 11-May-17 13:22:39

If you like them and they are real friends, why not do (b) before it is too late and they have signed the rental contract? How would you feel if they told you "if only we had known about the rule change" a year or two from now, after they have wasted their money and perhaps hopefully been caught cheating?

This is inuriating cheating - especially if they already know about the new rules. But they could still go ahead with the rental and actually avoid breaking the rules if they were willing to sell - but that would cost them stamp duty on a new place, and that can be enormous amounts in London.

If you do (b), of course you'd want to do it very smoothly, e.g. 1-1 over a coffee, during a general discussion about schools...

Lalalandfill Thu 11-May-17 13:47:04

CERTAINLY not c

b if you get the opportunity, but as suggested by NWGirls

anotherdayanothersquabble Thu 11-May-17 13:51:32

I would be tempted to pick up the phone....

tiggytape Thu 11-May-17 14:59:03

If this is a council which has changed its policy to state that parents cannot use a rented address whilst continuing to own their former house at the same time - then you probably won't need to do anything.

Applications are subject to council tax background checks.
Parents aren't asked to provide Council Tax info - the council obviously has access to all records and this history of owning one house whilst paying council tax on a newly rented one will show up.

Given that this council sounds like it has form for past problems with cheating, and given their specific wording, it is almost certain this council will carefully check all applications to certain highly popular schools. The family's application will be flagged up and subject to extra checks. If at that point they are unable to show they haven't broken the rules (i.e. their original house is sold) then the council will simply "amend" their application to show the "correct" address regardless of whether they continue living in the rented house or not and they will get a school offer based on their old address.

If they slip through the net of simple checks, there's a high possibility that they will be found out after they've been offered a place and the council will then retract that offer.
London school admissions are dog-eat-dog. You may not tell on a friend but if anyone else hears of it (or suspects they've cheated knowing where they used to live), it is possible that someone else will raise this as a complaint if their child is denied a place. And given the child has told at least one person already, it is hard to keep that kind of thing secret.

Lotsofsighing Thu 11-May-17 16:03:56

Thank you all, I was wondering why I was allowing it any tenancy in my limited head space but you've confirmed to me that it's an issue worthy of (some) thought.

The thing about option b) is I couldn't say with any certainty that the council would pick up on it - Tiggytape suggests that it's quite a straightforward process but on the other hand, council's have got a lot on their plates without chasing dodgy school applications. So I wouldn't want to tell the friends not to apply on those grounds when it might not even be that they'll have the place denied.

I won't do c), it was more a thought experiment. I'd feel too guilty if they did have the place denied knowing it was me that caused it. However, it doesn't stop me wanting someone else to dob them in because it is wrong. I think I'd just much rather they didn't do it the first place because their nearest school is really very good with comparable results.

I grappled with this dilemma previously when a friend moved for school applications and then decided they preferred the school nearer their original address so they used that one (and got in). Nice for them to have had the choice though...

Lotsofsighing Thu 11-May-17 16:04:43

councils have not with an apostrophe obviously...

HalleLouja Thu 11-May-17 16:09:42

Where I live (not London but a place with not enough places and highly desirable schools) they now check new families out to ensure they aren't doing anything dodgy.

I would maybe mention it to them but if they do move I may be tempted to call. If you don't someone else might. Kids have been taken out of schools after they started round here for similar trying to get round the rules.

NWgirls Thu 11-May-17 16:17:44

The thing about option b) is I couldn't say with any certainty that the council would pick up on it

No, but you can say with certainty that your friends would be taking a risk - and that is worth knowing (if they don't already).

It is also certain that they would be breaking the rules (if they go ahead and don't sell), sometjing good people will find worth knowing.

They deserve to be warned if they don't know. (And they certainly also deserve to be caught if you are kind enough to warn them, and they go ahead.)

Traalaa Thu 11-May-17 16:24:02

Anyone living in a house for under a year in a v.desirable catchment area is scrutinised, so I'm guessing they'd be caught quiet easily. As you like them, I'd say you have to do 'b'.

tiggytape Thu 11-May-17 16:37:32

Tiggytape suggests that it's quite a straightforward process but on the other hand, council's have got a lot on their plates without chasing dodgy school applications.

It is very straightforward - a quick database search flags up any recent house moves or anyone occupying what's listed as an unoccupied property etc. Most people therefore don't merit any further investigation and efforts are focused on anyone suspicious from that quick search.

The council can do all this from their own systems. They aren't relying on parents to send paperwork (although some also ask for that too).

Councils are also pretty savvy about where cheating is likely yo take place and target their efforts wisely:
So they know that School X is highly popular with a tiny catchment area for non siblings so they check all of those applying very carefully.

It doesn't take a vast amount of effort because many applicants won't need serious address scrutiny since they will be applying on the sibling rule or with an adopted child etc. And, of the ones relying on their address to get them a place, only a handful will be people who have moved within the last year or so.

So by the time you whittle it down to checking non-siblings-applying-to-a-popular-school-who-have-moved-house-within-the-last-year-or-so, you are talking about relatively few people who need close scrutiny.

Lotsofsighing Thu 11-May-17 21:01:15

Thanks again for all these thoughts, mostly telling me to relax and that justice will be done (without me having to meddle and feel guilty about meddling).

I feel mildly resentful that I'm brooding on this and will continue to do so until secondary allocations (presuming that dc has story right). It's not even for applications this year but for next (ie entry 2019) which means that a) got a lot of time to brood over this and b) they'll have been in rental for over a year so maybe this won't set so many council alarm bills going.

Anyway, I really should stop thinking about and offloading on patient internet strangers given that I don't even know the full story...

nicp123 Fri 12-May-17 08:32:56

Mind your own business, you don't really know the circumstances fully.

Theresnonamesleft Fri 12-May-17 08:49:19

I wouldn't do B. If they want to try and play the game then it's a risk they take. Even without the new wording there is no say they would get in anyway once you take into consideration older siblings, children in care, special circumstances etc.

The council would check because iirc as part of the secondary application you have to put down the existing primary school and surely they will also see that there's no application for the transfer for younger siblings.

pepperpot99 Fri 12-May-17 11:09:06

I have a feeling I know which school this is......is it a partially selective, OP?

HalleLouja Fri 12-May-17 12:49:03

pepperpot is the school you are thinking of in Herts or a different one?

pepperpot99 Fri 12-May-17 12:52:25

Yeah that's the one HalleLouja. It's exactly what their admissions code says. I know the school well.

AppleOfMyEye10 Fri 12-May-17 13:01:42

Op why does this bother you so much?
What do you get out of it? You sound spiteful and not a very good friend as well.

Lotsofsighing Fri 12-May-17 13:32:07

It's not in Herts, no. It's almost as high-profile though...

Apple, I like this family and as I said I'm probably not going to do anything at all. I don't feel spiteful, but I do think it's wrong to rent to gain a school place and so does the borough in question as they wouldn't have changed their admissions policy otherwise. I'm not losing sleep over it nor am I doing anything IRL, I was asking for other people's thoughts, which they've been kind enough to give.

Out of interest, if your child lost a place at the school they wanted because someone else did this would you feel it would be spiteful to complain?

MackerelOfFact Fri 12-May-17 13:45:23

I would have to mention something to them, not in a meddling way but more along the lines of "oh it's a shame you didn't move to X earlier before they changed the admission rules for Y school, as you would have been guaranteed a place!" At least that way you can establish whether or not they realise the rules have changed and whether they're deliberately trying to subvert the admissions process.

Some London councils send round admissions officers to check that properties are actually occupied by the people making the application.

Astro55 Fri 12-May-17 13:50:22

What if they are splitting up and mum is moving into rented accommodation?

People should have to fight for school places - there should be enough good schools for all children in their local area

If you want to complain fight the council not other parents

EssentialHummus Fri 12-May-17 13:50:43

The borough in question has had some very high-profile cases of this being done and as a consequence has changed the wording of its admissions policy so that it now says that if you own another property then they will take this to be your permanent address even if you're living in another rented property.

Doing nothing is probably fine in these circumstances. Having said that, if they went ahead, I'm not sure I could stop myself calling the council. This kind of thing is pretty endemic round my way, and I'd want to do what I could to prevent it.

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