Wealthy families scheming with postcodes to beat the school admissions system

A new report shows that middle class parents help their children get ahead in extracurriculars and school donations

Wealthy parents are renting or buying second homes in other postcodes to beat the school admissions system for their children, a report from education charity Sutton Trust has concluded.

One in three parents admitted to knowing families who had used these tactics—including registering their child under a relative’s address instead of their own—to place themselves within a catchment area and secure a place at their preferred school.

The Parent Power 2018 report asked more than a thousand parents through YouGov about the resources they used to boost their children’s chances of educational success. A fifth of parents from the wealthiest social class said they knew families who had done this—though very few of those surveyed admitted to the ploy themselves—compared to just six per cent of working class parents.

Those with money, education and confidence are more able to give their children the best possible chance of succeeding.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said in a statement to media: “The reason that families use various tactics to get their children into certain schools is often that other schools are stigmatised by a punitive accountability system which labels them as under-performing. We need a new approach which is less harsh and more supportive, enabling sustainable improvement and ensuring every family has access to a good local school.”

The study also found that more than a third of working class parents fear their child would face repercussions if they did not make extra financial contributions to their school, despite being told the donations are voluntary. Nearly half of parents said their child’s school had asked them for charitable donations in the past twelve months—with others claiming that these requests had increased over the last two years. The study also found that the working class parents surveyed struggled with school costs such as uniforms and travel expenses.

The report concluded: “For a significant proportion of schools in England, being able to meet the cost of annual staff pay increases from a combination of Government funding and their own reserves looks highly unlikely, even in the short term. Many schools will face the challenge of containing budget pressures and reducing staffing numbers without impacting on education standards.”

Education experts warned last year that increasingly cash-strapped schools were being plunged deeper into a funding crisis. Councillor Richard Watts, chair of the Local Government Association’s Children and Young People Board, said in a statement in response to the study: “This report raises a number of concerns around the squeeze on council-maintained school funding, and in particular the possible impact on the quality of education children receive.”

The Sutton Trust was launched in 1997 to promote social mobility through education. Founder Peter Lampl said: “Parents from all backgrounds and walks of life want to do the best for their children. Those with money, education and confidence are more able to give their children the best possible chance of succeeding. Middle class and professional parents gain an advantage for their children at every turn. They do this by buying homes in the catchment areas of good schools, paying for private tuition and out of school extracurricular activities, and providing support with post-18 educational choices.”

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