AN INCREASING number of parents are lying about their family set-up and where they live to get their children into Leeds best schools.
There has been a rise in the number of investigations the council has been forced to carry out into fraudulent applications for secondary and primary pupils in the past two years, the YEP can reveal.
In Leeds there have been 37 investigations have been carried out between the start of the school year in 2013 and January this year, with schools in more affluent areas of such as Roundhay, Shadwell, Alwoodley and Otley appearing more frequently on the list.
The probes into parents’ applications resulted in eight offers of school places being withdrawn after education officers discovered mothers and fathers had lied about living in the catchment areas.
The trend is thought to have been fuelled by an unprecedented surge in demand for school places, causing many families to miss out on their first choices.
A total of 11,768 applicants in Yorkshire did not get their first choice of either primary or secondary for the current school year and 2,800 applicants in Yorkshire were offered primaries or secondaries they did not choose.
Parents in West Yorkshire were less likely to get in to their preferred school than anywhere else in the region, with 13.9 per cent of primary applicants in Leeds not getting their first choice. “It is really important that the admissions system is fair for everybody,” said a Leeds Council spokesman.
“Nobody should be allowed to cheat by using a friend or relative’s address, or by putting an address you are not living at near to a popular school. Each year a small number of parents try to get a popular school place this way, taking a place that should have been given to another child.
“The council’s admissions team investigates all instances where a parent is thought to have used a false address in order to gain admission to a school.”
In theory, mothers and fathers face prison for committing fraud on their child’s application, yet the Local Government Association said few are prosecuted even when they are found to have cheated the process.
But the YEP’s figures could be the tip of the iceberg for a problem which can prove difficult for the stretched education officers of local authorities to detect.
Some rely on individual schools to check all parental information, while other councils conduct random spot checks.
A spokeswoman for the LGA said: “It is down to councils to deal with this problem at a local level.” Property experts say parents are willing to pay a high premium for a post code which falls within a good catchment area.
The National Housing Federation has today warned poorer households are being priced out of the property market by the rise in demand.
Head of campaigns Anna Brosnan said: “Whilst some parents have the opportunity to move house to give their children the best chance of getting into their ideal school, this just isn’t an option for thousands who are priced out of so much of the market.
“We have spoken to parents who rent privately, many of whom say housing costs have prevented them sending their children to their preferred school.
“This is yet more evidence of the broken housing market in this country.”