Scams for schools

The parents who cheat for their children's education.

AT THIS time of year, Geoffrey Fallows, head of one of London's most sought-after state schools, may be found snooping around the neighbourhood. Should you ask, he'll say he is calling on a prospective pupil. But Mr Fallows may not be visiting for a cosy chat. He may be doing detective work: the educational equivalent of the TV licence detector van. He wants to know whether the girl on his list lives at that address. Sometimes he discovers that no one of that name has ever resided there.

This may sound like bizarre behaviour on the part of the headteacher of Camden School for Girls. But when your school is as popular as this one, and parents are pulling elaborate wheezes to gain admission, you have to be vigilant.

The school's deadline for accepting pupils for the autumn term falls at the end of this month. Once a child has been accepted, parents are free to move miles away from the school and younger sisters also win the right to a place. So Mr Fallows has to do his homework now. His dilemma finds echoes all over Britain, wherever the best state schools are oversubscribed.

Mr Fallows remembers a couple who claimed that their marriage had broken up, and that the children were living with one parent in a flat near the school.

"I had my suspicions," he says. "So I knocked on a few doors and asked the neighbours if there were any children living there. My inquiries led me to decide not to admit the daughter. It seems that the family was living miles away. They threatened to fight me through the courts and complained about the fact that I'd been asking questions. But they subsequently did nothing and I took that to be an admission of guilt."

Many parents find God, if temporarily, in order to secure a place at a church school. Others simply forge their addresses. One west London couple who had recently split up applied to a London comprehensive miles from where they lived. On their application, they used the address of a flat belonging the husband's new girlfriend. Letters which went out from the school duly received replies. No one ever suspected the ruse.

In the eyes of the authorities, such parents are cheating, although they are content to see parents move house to get within the catchment area of a good school.

But a clampdown could be imminent: the Local Government Association wants parents who caught out cheating to be fined pounds 2,000 - the cost of a year's schooling to the taxpayer. Parents desperate to get their children into good schools are unlikely to be deterred, however. Angelina's parents tried to find places for her in good state secondary schools all over north London. No luck. "I was determined to find her a good school," says her mother. "Eventually, I told her that she would have to go and stay with her grandfather, who lives just around the corner from an excellent school. She stayed there for a few weeks through the admissions process, and got a place." Once admitted, Angelina returned to her home.

Angelina, who has since achieved good exam results, says the consequences for those friends who did not commit such frauds have been dramatic. "My best friend lived only 10 minutes away from my school. But she didn't get a place. She had to go to a school which was so bad that eventually her parents sent her to a boarding school in Ireland."

Another woman pulled a different scam. She had problems finding a place for her child in a primary school serving the rich London suburb of Hampstead. The child's name had been on the waiting-list since the age of two. But by the time he was five, no place was forthcoming. "Eventually," says a friend, "she persuaded someone with children already at the school to say that they were cousins. That did the trick."

As schools catch on to parents' scams, the cheating gets increasingly desperate. One parent from north London failed to find a good school for her daughter, who was stuck in a failing comprehensive. A friend explains: "She found a counsellor and went along for a few sessions with her daughter. She got her daughter to tell the counsellor how traumatised she was at her new school, how she was being bullied, and so on. I know she manufactured this story. But she persuaded the counsellor to appear at an appeal for her. And that was that. She got her place at the school she wanted."

Some names have been changed

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Mark, Katie and Sanjay in The Apprentice boardroom
TV
Arts and Entertainment

Film The critics but sneer but these unfashionable festive films are our favourites

Arts and Entertainment
Frances O'Connor and James Nesbitt in 'The Missing'

TV We're so close to knowing what happened to Oliver Hughes, but a last-minute bluff crushes expectations

Arts and Entertainment
Joey Essex will be hitting the slopes for series two of The Jump

TV

Who is taking the plunge?
Arts and Entertainment
Katy Perry as an Ancient Egyptian princess in her latest music video for 'Dark Horse'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Dame Judi Dench, as M in Skyfall

film
Arts and Entertainment
Morrissey, 1988

TV
Arts and Entertainment
William Pooley from Suffolk is flying out to Free Town, Sierra Leone, to continue working in health centres to fight Ebola after surviving the disease himself

music
Arts and Entertainment
The Newsroom creator Aaron Sorkin

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Matt Berry (centre), the star of Channel 4 sitcom 'Toast of London'

TVA disappointingly dull denouement
Arts and Entertainment
Tales from the cryptanalyst: Benedict Cumberbatch in 'The Imitation Game'

film
Arts and Entertainment
Pixie Lott has been voted off Strictly Come Dancing 2014

Strictly
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

    Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

    Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

    Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

    The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
    Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

    Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

    The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
    Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

    The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

    Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
    La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

    Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

    The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
    10 best high-end laptops

    10 best high-end laptops

    From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

    The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

    The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
    Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

    After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
    Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

    Homeless Veterans campaign

    Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
    Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

    Meet Racton Man

    Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
    Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

    Garden Bridge

    St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

    Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

    An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
    Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

    Joint Enterprise

    The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
    Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

    Freud and Eros

    Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum