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Saturday, 26 September 2015 08:44

Primary School Admissions: Abuse of Residential Qualification

For years I have lobbied KCC to tighten up the regulations around abuse of residential qualifications for school admission. A common method is for families to use temporary addresses to secure places at favoured schools, depriving local families of school places by this means. At last, for September 2015 admissions, KCC tightened up the regulations considerably for those primary schools under KCC control that use a distance criterion, although it remains to be seen how effective this has been in practice.  

Claremont

Claremont Primary School

You will find the new rules in full in the Guides for applying for a Primary school in Kent. The specific pages are 24 and 25 in any area version of the guide for 2015 entry (2016 has not been published at the time of writing).  

These place responsibility for monitoring and taking action over potential abuse firmly in the hands of school governors rather than KCC itself, and so action will depend almost entirely on the will of head and governors to police the system. So far the 2015 statistics show little change in outcomes. 

The key sections of the rules are:.....

Any residential move which takes place between the Thursday 16 April and the end of the first school term will be investigated to establish if a short term let has been taken for the purpose of securing a school place outside of the families intended residential area. If the Governing Body consider this to be the case it may consider the application at the time to have been misleading and may withdraw the school place even after the child has started at school.

A child’s home address is defined as a residential property that is the child’s main or only residence… It should not be a temporary address that has been rented on a short term basis in addition to another ‘home’ owned by the family.

Depending on your circumstances, there is a possibility that you own a property near to a school that you may express a preference for, but live elsewhere. Please be aware that you should not use this address unless you are actually living in it,and it is your main residence as defined above.

Should it be found that there is insufficient evidence to prove your residence and that of your child or that the information on a child’s application is misleading, then the offer of a school place may be withdrawn.

Qualifying rental agreements now have to be of not less than 12 months duration.

These key points are similar to proposals that I put forward in 2012 and were rejected out of hand, and in 2013, that were ignored, based on rules being introduced in a number of other local authorities. This was in spite of considerable media interest in and support for the issue. I am therefore delighted that at last action appears to have been taken. In the interim, there has been considerable dismay amongst parents local to some popular primary schools, as their children have lost out on places to others whose families have rented purely to secure a school place and then returned to their main home outside the catchment area.

I appreciate that these decisions do create massive issues for some families moving into Kent, but the pressure on places at popular schools is such that priorities have to be laid down and intention to move permanently if a school place can be agreed in advance is not sufficient to justify a local child losing out.

In 2014, 37 primary cases were investigated, which resulted in 22 offers being withdrawn.

Under the new policy, KCC’s revised fraudulent application policy increased the timeframe that residential moves will be investigated until the end of the Winter term in December.As such, it is expected that the number of investigated and withdrawn cases will likely increase” from the 14 it stands at at present for 2015. I know from the enquiries I receive each year, both from parents considering taking temporary accommodation and others wishing to protest about alleged cases, that the real problem is of a much greater scale than this.

For Medway in 2015 March to July, there were 15 cases investigated, which resulted in 5 offers of places being withdrawn, 2 Infant, I Junior and 2 secondary.  

For many schools this is not the most pressing issue on a very packed agenda and it often falls to parents to point out such abuse or cases of fraud. Sadly, I have been approached by families where schools have not been willing to take up the issue even when it has been made clear.  

It remains to be seen how much the new rules act as a deterrent to families, outside the range of a good school and desperate to seek one by any means, even though it is at the expense of a family more local to the school who may want it just as much.

One primary school at the centre of the storm is Claremont Primary in Tunbridge Wells, where local houses and rentals are reported to carry a 25% premium for their location. Estate agents short term rental advertisements often carry the added incentive of “close to Claremont Primary” or similar.

There are of course similar issues around some very popular secondary schools, although none as far as I am aware is yet following the KCC lead. 

Last modified on Sunday, 27 September 2015 22:55

1 comment

  • Comment Link Wednesday, 14 October 2015 10:29 posted by Adrian Cook

    Great news that KCC have finally tightened up the regulations surrounding the use of temporary addresses to secure places at favoured schools. It’s been clear for a long time that KCC’s former policies were wholly unfit for purpose and largely unenforceable.

    Unfortunately I had some personal experience of this issue which resulted in extended correspondence with both KCC and Claremont School, which I notice you mention by name. At the time I was most grateful that you made so much information available on your website. Your work helped me personally and, though an updated KCC policy, will hopefully benefit many more parents across the County for years to come. PETER: My pleasure. I only hope the policy is made to work in practice.

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