Parents lie to secure best school for children

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The Independent Online

More than half of parents are prepared to move home or lie about where they live in order to provide their children with a good education, a survey has found.

Research for the Children's Society also confirmed that some parents – one in seven – are willing to pose as practising church-goers, to gain access to a better school. In London – where the battle for good placements is at its most competitive – the proportion of those who admitted to being dishonest rose to 23 per cent.

The report portrayed a strong class divide in school access, with poor children being stuck living in areas with worse schools. This was demonstrated by the finding that, of children eligible for free school meals, only 44 per cent were lucky enough o have a good school among their nearest three, compared to 61 per cent of those who were better off.

Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of The Children's Society, said the findings emphasised the gulf between Britain's schools. "The lengths that parents are prepared to go to clearly indicate that there are huge variations in school standards," he said.

"But, for many parents, the costly exercise of moving house to get their child into a good school is simply not an option. The current system is in danger of embedding inequality by making a child's social class and economic circumstances the key influence."

In findings that show a lack of faith in the state system and a lack of ideological objections to "opting out" of the comprehensive system among many aspirant parents, almost half – 44 per cent – of those questioned said they would send their children to private schools if they could afford it. Again the figure rose in London, to 52 per cent.

A Department of Children, Schools and Families spokesman pointed out the Government had done much to crack down on parents who "play the system", and had made moves to enhance so-called "choice". "We've introduced the new statutory admissions code to outlaw unfair and covert admissions practices," he said.

The survey also found two out of three of 1,184 adults questioned said there was a greater emphasis on tests and exams and not enough on "emotional development".

"Teaching children to be literate and numerate is not enough; we need to invest in their emotional and social skills," said Kathy Sylva, of Oxford University who led the inquiry.

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