A shortage of slots in the best primary schools is fueling unethical behavior from parents as they take questionable steps to make sure that their kids get an opportunity to receive high-quality education. From attending church services of a sect they don't belong to, to falsifying applications, parents are willing to go not one but many extra miles to increase the chances that their children get that coveted school spot when the time comes.
The authorities in charge of preventing application fraud are not in the dark about what they're facing. According to Julie Henry writing for The Daily Telegraph, the number of applications that are getting a second look from investigators has risen 11-fold since five years ago.
Over the past five years, the number of investigations into suspicious school applications has risen almost elevenfold. Admission forms from more than 1,000 families in 91 councils were queried in 2012/13 because of concerns about fake addresses, bogus baptism certificates, and even families claiming, falsely, that a child already in a school was a brother or sister to get a place under the "sibling rule".
This wasn't always the case. It used to be that children simply attended their local primary schools, and then upon completion transferred to the local secondary. In this way, children remained prisoners of their post code – stuck in a school that might be underperforming or not suiting their particular needs.
According to Henry, all this changed after High Court ruled that students were allowed to apply to the schools outside their local district and stopped the practice of automatically allocating all school places to those in the area. After that, the process of getting a child into school became much more complicated.
"The tremendous competition we are seeing is due to a number of factors," says Prof Alan Smithers, an education professor from Buckingham University. "Fees for independent schools are so high, particularly in a recession, that fewer parents can afford them. We also have a much more qualifications-based society. You have to have the grades to get to a top university or get a job, so it makes sense that parents are more determined than ever to give their children a good education."
Thus the church attendance every Sunday, even for those who don't believe at all or are simply not members of the Church of England. The best COE schools reserve up to half of their slots for children from families of believers and no one wants their unwillingness to sacrifice a few hours every Sunday to be the reason why their kids must settle for second-best.