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Displaying items by tag: fraud

Six years ago, Kent County Council tightened up its regulations (page 16) on home addresses declared on primary school admission applications following my lobbying about the issue over previous years. However, whilst the rules for county-maintained secondary schools may be similar, the explanation (page 11) of how they operate appears to have been designed primarily so as not to offend anyone. In the same vein, many academies treat this issue as one of minimal importance and, for example, the Eleven Plus website regularly contains discussion of short term temporary addresses to secure places, for example posted two days ago: ‘I live in London and the cut-off date for CAF is 31st of October….If I can get a rental agreement in place before 1st of Nov I can apply to Kent directly’.  I have written two previous articles on this issue here and here, having lobbied for several years previously without effect. One problem is that KCC delegates responsibility for investigating and establishing such fraudulent applications even for its own schools, including small primaries.

A few Kent schools treat this issue with the seriousness it observes, notably Tunbridge Wells Girls’ Grammar which sets out its rules and the consequences of breaking them very clearly, see below.

I appreciate that some of those parents who use devices to secure places at the schools that break the rules don't see themselves as committing fraud and don't think about the children deprived of places by their actions. A previous Schools Adjudicator, previously a Deputy Director of Education for Kent,  came up with ten  'popular' means of outwitting the system. However, I have no intention of reproducing these and, because few are picked up, there is no way of estimating the scale of the problem.   

I appreciate this is not the best year for schools to commit additional resources to identify such cases, but it would send out a powerful message if more schools would investigate possibilities One simple device for secondary schools is to look at the current primary school of the child and if it is out of area to investigate further! 

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The headmaster of the Trinity School, the new name for the proposed Christian Free School in Sevenoaks, has sent an email to parents who have applied to the school for their children, stating that government has awarded the site of the old Wildernesse School, currently occupied by part of the Knole Academy, to Trinity School as their long term permanent home for September 2015. This has been confirmed by a letter from the Department for Education to KCC although the latter is slightly hedged by "I am minded to excercise the Secretary of statee's powers", suggesting that there is still more time for persuasion. Trinity chool already has a temporary base until 2015 at Ryedale Court in Riverhead.

The email from the school states: "We will be on the Knole East site in Seal Hollow Road, popularly known as 'Wildernesse'.  This is an existing school site with excellent sports facilities, a lot of green space, and plenty of parking for cars and buses.  The existing buildings will either be replaced or refurbished so that they meet modern standards. As you probably know, Kent County Council announced in January their intention to use the Wildernesse site for the proposed Grammar satellite.  Kent told us that they did not believe that the site could be shared with our school so we looked for, and found, a number of good alternative options. In the event, however, the Department for Education has decided that Wildernesse is the best site for Trinity School out of all the available options.  The Department has therefore written to Kent County Council to express its intention to base our school at the Wildernesse site once it is vacated by Knole Academy.  The Academies Act 2010 gives the Secretary of State for Education the legal powers to ensure this outcome.  We continue to believe that the site is big enough for two schools and it may be that this will be the eventual result of these discussions.......

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Thursday, 28 February 2013 19:45

Fraudulent school admission offers

I am regularly consulted by parents concerned that others are abusing the school admission system, by either fraudulent applications or 'bending' the rules' to gain a place at their preferred school and my advice is always to bring it to the attention of the authorities as they are depriving a child who has a greater right to a place at the school of their choice. This news item has its root in a concern I expressed to Kent County Council in November about the vagueness of the definition of the "child's only or main residence' in the Kent rules, which appears open to wide interpretation and hence manipulation by parents  who understandably want their child to go to their preferred school. I wrote an article back in 2010, covering some of the issues which are still current.These issues have been covered by Radio Kent, BBC SE and Meridian today (Friday)........
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Tuesday, 21 December 2010 18:21

Admissions Fraud

Last updated July 2017

Fraudulent Admission applications occur for places in both Primary and secondary schools and in every Local Authority in the country, including both Kent and Medway. 

I believe this is a growing problem, and what is seen is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg. The reasons for this are often through desperation, as parents seek either to secure a place at the best school in the area, or a suitable school when faced with unpalatable alternatives. As such, one can understand their motives, but this is grossly unfair to those children and families who play by the rules. 

There are now two sanctions which are applied for applicants who are caught out making a fraudulent application. The first is the simple one of cancelling the application which can cause the perpetrator significant problems in securing an alternative place, or else cancelling a place at the school even if the child has taken up a place there. The second is for the Local Authority, or presumably the school Governing Body for a Foundation school or Academy, to initiate a prosecution as happened in two alleged cases in Harrow and Poole.  Neither of these were successful for whatever reason, and may have inhibited other Authorities from taking similar action, but the problem remains. I wrote a previous article, but relating to primary schools, here

I am regularly approached about this issue and will not advise on how to obtain a place at a school fraudulently. On the other hand, I successfully supported clients who have found out about a fraudulent application, to see it cancelled to enhance the chances of honest families to secure a place at their chosen school. I remain happy to pass on information on this issue anonymously to the appropriate authorities.

Currently I am aware of only one Admission Authority, the Governing Body of Tunbridge Wells Girls Grammar School, which routinely carries out checks on applicants, an initiative I applaud for a massively popular school in an area where it is evident that some families do take out short term leases to attempt to secure school places. However, I anticipate that the practice of attempting to  obtain school places by fraudulent means will grow.

The Schools Adjudicator carried out an enquiry into the practice of Fraudulent Admission to schools in 2009. He found some small and medium sized Local Authorities considered they had more than 100 identified fraudulent applications, whilst others, including large LAs, had none. In the same period KCC had 13 reported cases, of which most were dismissed. My own observations in the intervening years, suggest the problem has ballooned.

I consider Kent has two weaknesses in its procedure. The first lies in its delegation of discovering fraud to individual schools (I believe most cases of attempted fraud occur in primary schools), most of which do not have the resources to investigate such issues. The second is Kent's loose definition of place of residence when compared with some other authorities, which I have taken up with the Council but to no avail. Update July 2017: After years of lobbying by me, Kent now has a much tighter definition of residence for its own primary schools. Other schools should take note, but don't, some because they simply don;t want to know. 

The most common method of fraud identified was the use of addresses of relatives, the next being the taking up of short term leases or rental agreements on houses with no intention of living there. Update July 2017: I believe the latter is now the most common although I only have circumstantial evidence for this through the examples I have come across.