A headmaster who hired a private detective to catch parents who cheated the admissions system advised schools today to take swift action to "scare" people into following the rules.
Norman Hoare, head of St George's School, Harpenden, Hertfordshire, took the unusual step to deal with prospective parents suspected of trying to bypass the school's entry criteria by renting property in the town.
He admitted it was an "extreme" measure but said it led to the offer of a place being withdrawn.
Mr Hoare told GMTV: "It's only been used once but on that occasion we deemed it to be necessary.
"We were checking that the family that claimed to be living in my home town of Harpenden was actually living there all the time and we found out that they were living in a nearby home town and using a false address."
Asked if he believed it was a common practice, he said: "I think it's true to say a lot of people are very keen to get into very good schools.
"I don't think in my experience a lot will go to the extent that that particular parent did.
"Since that occurrence my colleagues and I have noticed a decline in suspicious applications.
"So you only have to do something like that once and make it known and I think it will scare people off."
Mr Hoare said although he could understand parents' motivation it was fraudulent and advised staff to check through admission forms carefully if, as in the case of voluntary-aided St George's School, the school has control of its admissions.
"You have got to start right at the beginning," he added. "It's no good doing it later when offers of places have been made because then it becomes painful for the child and that is the difficulty in this whole process.
"Unless it's done early enough and thoroughly enough it's going to be painful for the child."
Mr Hoare revealed that two years ago he had turned to a private detective to help deal with the problem at his oversubscribed school.Reuse content