School cheats: Checks on lying parents top 1,000

Number of families who provide a false address for their children soars

Whitehall Editor

Hundreds of children have been banned from the state schools of their choice because their parents cheated to win them a place.

The number of primary and secondary school places withdrawn after parents were caught using underhand methods to get round the admissions process has soared over the past four years. The Independent on Sunday has found that local councils across the UK launched more than 1,000 investigations last year into allegations that families had breached admissions rules, amid growing competition for primary and secondary school places.

Hundreds of offers of places were subsequently withdrawn after officials found evidence of a range of fraudulent activities, including families claiming they lived within a school’s catchment area when in fact their homes were miles away.

Council leaders, who have demanded greater powers to track down the cheats, said they were being forced to carry out scores more checks every year following tip-offs from disgruntled parents. But teaching unions said the rising tide of cheating to win places was fuelled by politicians’ insistence on parental choice and their championing of school league tables.

“We suspect that fraudulent applications are more of a problem now because successive governments have promoted the idea of parental choice in school admissions, so that parents believe they have a choice of school, rather than just having an option to apply to more than one,” a spokesman for the Association of Teachers and Lecturers said. “The reality is that schools choose their pupils and parents can only express a preference for a particular school. By talking up school league tables, the Government has undoubtedly contributed to competition between schools and the idea of some being much better for pupils than others.”

More than 70 LEAs confirmed they had launched investigations, sometimes involving surveillance of families to check they are living within catchment areas. The total of inquiries logged rose from barely 120 in 2010/11 to more than 1,000 in the latest academic year.

At least 400 resulted in the offer of places being withdrawn – sometimes after the child had already started at their new school. Experts said yesterday the true total was likely to be much higher, as the Government does not require schools and LEAs to provide details of all the fraud investigations they carry out.

The vast majority of offences related to false addresses – where families gave the address of relatives or short-term rental properties – but the list also included incidents of parents wrongly claiming their child had been baptised in order to get them into church schools.

Birmingham, the country’s biggest local authority, mounted more than 150 investigations from 2010 to 2012, many relating to “applications that indicated a change of address which the [council] did not accept”.

Camden council in London confirmed it had withdrawn the offer of a place at one of its “best-performing” schools following complaints of cheating. A spokeswoman said officials were “actively looking into other cases where there may be a problem”. Many LEAs refused to give details or claimed they did not keep a central record, leaving the responsibility to individual schools.

A report on “fraudulent or misleading applications for admission to schools”, from the Office of the Schools Adjudicator in 2009 revealed that several councils had asked for stricter powers.

The Department for Education said: “The School Admissions Code is clear that all school places should be allocated in a fair and transparent way. It is also clear that if a place is found to have been secured using fraudulent information, the offer may be withdrawn.”

News
Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
Sport
Arsenal supporters gather for a recent ‘fan party’ in New Jersey
football
Sport
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
News
i100
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
film
Life and Style
Balmain's autumn/winter 2014 campaign, shot by Mario Sorrenti and featuring Binx Walton, Cara Delevingne, Jourdan Dunn, Ysaunny Brito, Issa Lish and Kayla Scott
fashionHow Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
News
people
News
BBC broadcaster and presenter Evan Davis, who will be taking over from Jeremy Paxman on Newsnight
peopleForget Paxman - what will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Life and Style
fashionCustomer complained about the visibly protruding ribs
News
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
life
News
Tovey says of homeless charity the Pillion Trust : 'If it weren't for them and the park attendant I wouldn't be here today.'
people
Sport
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Employment Solicitor

Highly Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: MANCHESTER - Senior Employment Solici...

Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

£600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

Commercial Litigation Associate

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: CITY - COMMERCIAL LITIGATION - GLOBAL...

Systems Manager - Dynamics AX

£65000 - £75000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: The client is a...

Day In a Page

Evan Davis: The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing to take over at Newsnight

The BBC’s wolf in sheep’s clothing

What will Evan Davis be like on Newsnight?
Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

Finding the names for America’s shame

The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
Inside a church for Born Again Christians: Speaking to God in a Manchester multiplex

Inside a church for Born Again Christians

As Britain's Anglican church struggles to establish its modern identity, one branch of Christianity is booming
Rihanna, Kim Kardashian and me: How Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Olivier Rousteing is revitalising the house of Balmain

Parisian couturier Pierre Balmain made his name dressing the mid-century jet set. Today, Olivier Rousteing – heir to the house Pierre built – is celebrating their 21st-century equivalents. The result? Nothing short of Balmania
Cancer, cardiac arrest, HIV and homelessness - and he's only 39

Incredible survival story of David Tovey

Tovey went from cooking for the Queen to rifling through bins for his supper. His is a startling story of endurance against the odds – and of a social safety net failing at every turn
Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
10 best reed diffusers

Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little