Hampshire parents cheating to get children into top schools

Pupils from Portsmouth and Horndean schools compete in tech contest

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PARENTS have been submitting false addresses to try to get their children into some of the most sought-after schools, it’s been revealed.

According to figures from Portsmouth and Hampshire councils, 28 children have had their places withdrawn as a result of fraudulent applications since 2007.

In each case, applicants claimed they lived at addresses or with family members other than their permanent address to gain higher priority for admissions.

And in Hampshire, the number of detected fraudulent applications this year hit eight, compared with five in 2010, two in 2008 and 2009, and four in 2007.

Cllr Sean Woodward, leader of Fareham Borough Council, said he believed the scale of the problem was far greater than the figures suggest.

In his authority, just one case of fraud was detected in 2007 which resulted in the withdrawal of a place for Whiteley Primary, which is oversubscribed due to a lack of spaces in the area.

Cllr Woodward said: ‘This is just the tip of the iceberg.

‘One hears anecdotally of many stories and even if half of them were true there would be more cases in Fareham alone than those reported across the entire county.

‘It’s cheating plain and simple.

‘The vast majority of parents abide by the rules and it is grossly unfair for them.

‘In Whiteley there are at least 200 primary aged children being educated outside the area. Some will be by choice but others because they are not enough places.’

Neither Hampshire nor Portsmouth councils actively seek out fraud. Cllr Woodward is urging parents to be alert to families who are cheating the system, so they can be investigated.

However, he accepts people take advantage of admissions loopholes, such as renting homes in catchment areas for a week so they are technically living on the patch at the time the application is made.

This year, 94.2 per cent of Hampshire children got into their first choice of secondary school, compared with 91.8 per cent in Portsmouth which does not suffer from a shortage of places.

Mike Smith, chairman of Portsmouth’s secondary heads, suspects the majority of cases of fraudulent applications for secondary places are for Springfield in Drayton, which boasts the city’s best exam results.

He said: ‘I don’t blame any parent for trying to do the best for their child but where do you draw the line?

‘Other forward-thinking parents who can afford it will buy houses in the catchment area of their school of choice – and to an extent there’s an element of fraud in that.

‘It all comes down to money. What they’re doing is legal but it has the same lack of integrity as renting a place or claiming a false address or using your nan’s address.’

This year one offered at Gomer Infants, an ‘outstanding’ school in Gosport, was withdrawn due to a false application.

Portsmouth was unable to give a school breakdown.