School catchment cheat parents see kids thrown out

A number of city primary schools are oversubscribed. Picture: PA
A number of city primary schools are oversubscribed. Picture: PA
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SIX families have lost their school places after being caught cheating to get their children into popular city primaries.

The council crackdown follows a probe which has revealed growing numbers of parents are lying to secure youngsters a place.

Some families were reported, while others were caught out by the fraud team when the paperwork they supplied aroused suspicion.

Several requests for out-of-catchment places have been dropped ahead of next month’s school registration deadline after parents learned they were under investigation.

City chiefs have also vowed to continue to tackle the cheats, urging people to shop parents who have been making false claims.

Education leader Councillor Paul Godzik said: “We know this is an issue that concerns many parents and we take it very seriously.

“If we believe there is a possibility that fraud is being committed we will investigate. If we discover this to be the case we will withdraw the school place.

“Working with the council’s fraud team, we are able to access a greater range of information, including credit checks, and this has allowed us to identify instances of fraud.

“Anecdotally we believe there are a number of schools in the city where this is likely to be a greater issue than others and we will investigate all potential cases.

“This year we plan to put these schools under greater scrutiny.”

Suspicions were raised after families were unable to provide council tax documents or utility bills to prove their address, while random spot checks were also carried out.

City schools are under more pressure than ever to tackle a growing number of pupils.

There are around 29,000 primary school pupils in city but latest estimates show this will rise to 31,700 by 2020, increasing to 35,400 by 2030.

This year’s most oversubscribed schools include Craiglockhart, Flora Stevenson, and Duddingston.

Education chiefs stressed they had only ever dealt with catchment fraud before a child had started at the school.

Tory education spokesman Councillor Jason Rust said it was important that the process was “fair and transparent” and that those parents cheating or in collusion with others were found out.

He said: “Deterring fraudulent behaviour should be on-going practice and not a one-off crackdown.

“In the eyes of many parents the wider problem boils down to the supply of good schools and a perception that some schools in Edinburgh are for whatever reason better than others. Until this wider issue is resolved there will always be some who try to get around or play the system to the disadvantage of others and so sanctions are required.”

Joanne Wilson’s son Matthew fell just outside the catchment area for Duddingston and now attends Royal High Primary. She said: “The crackdown is good idea. Imagine if someone had got into Duddingston because there parents had lied and my son had lost a place.”

A father of a non-catchment pupil attending Corstorphine Primary, who asked not to be named, said: “These people probably would have been behind us on the waiting list.

“At times, it has felt that those who were playing by the rules were being penalised.”

• Anyone who believes a parent has given false information to register for a school place can contact the school placing team on 0131-469 3033 or email school.placements@edinburgh.gov.uk.