Parents 'bribe and threaten' headteachers for places at leading primary schools

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The Independent Online

Almost a third of headteachers at leading primary schools have been bribed or bullied by parents wanting a place for their children, a study claims.

A headteacher of a primary in Kensington, west London, was offered £5,000 a year by parents to secure a place for their child, researchers found. The study, by the BBC's Six O'Clock News, showed parents were applying increasing pressure on more than half of the head teachers at 50 of England's 100 leading primary schools.

About 32 per cent of headteachers had been offered cash, other inducements or threatened with violence. And 70 per cent of those questioned said parents lied on applications, commonly using a false address to qualify for the school's catchment area. One family even listed an empty field as its home.

Nearly three out of four headteachers have an increased work load due to admissions-related administration and greater demands from parents, the report says.

Dr Beverley Feather, headteacher at Clare House primary in Bromley, Kent, told the BBC: "Parents say they could help with communication technology if their child got in. One time I was offered money. 'Would £3,000 help the decision-making process?' Of course it wouldn't. It is solely based on distance from the home."

Clare Griffiths, headteacher of Parkview primary school in Derby, said although some parents offered bribes others resorted to threats in an attempt to secure places.

She said: "A gentleman in the first year the school opened came in to the school and said, 'It's a new school, you're building up your resources. If you will give my child a place you can have £2,000 to add to your library resources. You gain, and I gain.'" Describing an incident that involved the police after a father threatened her because his child was refused a place, she said: "He said he knew where I lived and that I had better offer the place or there would be consequences."

Madeline Brading, headteacher of Our Lady of Victories Roman Catholic primary school in Kensington, described an increase in pressure, saying parents "offered inducements but it's getting bigger now".

The Department for Education and Skills said last night that admissions policies were "a matter for schools and the local admissions authorities".