Hundreds of parents caught lying about where they live to get their child into a better school

Parents lie about address to beat school catchment area. Credit: ITV

Hundreds of parents have been caught lying about where they live to get their child into a good school, an ITV News investigation has found.

Some 582 school applications were rejected because of false or inaccurate addresses in the past five years.

In some instances this meant a child was kicked out of school part way through a term.

Parents wanting the best education possible for their children drives them to try and cheat the system with little thought to those who, as a result, lose a place at their local school.

One mother, who asked us to hide her identity, said she could not afford a private education for her daughters but wanted the best start for them in life.

One mother told us why she decided to lie on her children's school applications Credit: ITV News

I finally found a friend who agreed to let me rent a room and pay some bills so that I would have my name on the tenancy agreement and council tax. I could use that to say I lived there.

I feel bad for the other parents but I've got three daughters and I would do anything to make sure their life is stable and they're ok.

It might not sound fair but where I used to live the schools were not good.

They had supply teachers almost every day, there was no stability, they just did not care.

My children couldn't read and write properly. It was basically a day centre, you take your kids there while you're at work.

– Parent who lied about where she lives to get her children into a better school
Parents lie about address to beat school catchment area. Credit: PA

Most often parents were caught trying to beat the school catchment area system by using a friend or extended family member's address instead of their own.

Others paid a short-term rental for a small room or flat close to the school they wanted their children to go to until they were given a place.

One woman - who lived near a school rated 'outstanding' by Ofsted - told ITV London she took money from desperate parents so they could pretend they were renting a room in her house.

Schools Week editor Laura McInerney says parents using fake addresses is particularly bad in London because of a shortage of schools.

It's likely that there are people who are not being caught simple because it's difficult to find out some of these things so it's likely that the scale is much worse than we think.

For example, there was a case where someone had a houseboat and was moored in a certain place.

That is quite difficult - other than actually going down there and checking when they are there and when they're not.

London has a really growing population we already have lots of children under the age of seven anyway and it's really difficult to build new schools in London because there aren't enough site so the problem is worse here.

– Schools Week editor Laura McInerney

Some applications were withdrawn by parents after councils questioned addresses that had been given, while others were taken to court and convicted.

Borough breakdown for the number of parents caught giving a false or wrong address over the past five years:

  • BARNET: 7
  • BEXLEY: 4
  • BRENT: No records
  • BROMLEY: No records
  • CAMDEN: 4
  • CROYDON: 18
  • EALING: 5
  • ENFIELD: 49
  • HACKNEY: 7
  • HARROW: 22
  • HAVERING: 62
  • HOUNSLOW: 110
  • KINGSTON: 15
  • LAMBETH: 76
  • LEWISHAM: No records
  • MERTON: 2
  • NEWHAM: 8
  • RICHMOND: 45
  • SUTTON: 2

The problem is so common in some boroughs that local authorities - like Havering Council - have set up a special investigations unit to catch out parents who lie on school applications.

But the degree to which councils around the capital investigate parents is patchy, with some not even holding records for the number of parents caught cheating.

Headteacher Dr David Parry of the Coopers' Company and Coborn School, Upminster says he does see fraudulent applications.

You do occasionally have someone who will put forward a fraudulent application because they are so desperate to get their children into a good school.

From a moral point of view it's obviously wholly unacceptable, I suppose the example you are setting to your children is that you are basically fiddling the system.

I think it is wrong on all those levels, but you do have some sympathy if their local schools are not very good.

– Dr David Parry, Headteacher, Coopers' Company and Coborn School

The figures were obtained from a Freedom of Information request.