Kent School Officials Expose Widespread Fraud in School Applications and Addresses Used by Parents

Kent School Officials Expose Widespread Fraud in School Applications and Addresses Used by Parents

Kent school leaders shed light on fraudulent school applications and fake addresses used by parents

School officials in Kent have revealed that more than 40 families have been caught lying on school application forms in order to secure a spot for their child in a prestigious school. These fraudulent tactics include renting properties near top schools and falsely claiming to live there, as well as using a relative’s address or registering accounts at a different location.

While these practices are well-known, school leaders say they are unable to prevent all attempts at cheating the system as they cannot act as private detectives or conduct surveillance on homes. Garry Ratcliffe, the chief executive of The Golden Thread Alliance, which oversees nine primary academies in Dartford and Gravesham, says they do investigate concerns as best as they can.

However, the application process for their schools’ reception intake is managed by Kent County Council (KCC), and schools must follow set criteria such as having a sibling at the school and living within a certain distance in order to offer a place. Parents must provide proof of a permanent address, such as a birth certificate or council tax bill, but it is not always easy for schools to verify this information.

Ratcliffe acknowledges that it is a challenge for schools to ensure fairness in the application process, as they cannot act as detectives. He adds that this is a problem faced by many schools, and that they must trust the word of applicants when it comes to providing proof of address.

KentOnline has received numerous reports from people wanting to expose others who they believe have lied about their address to secure a school place for their child. One parent, Mandip Shergill, says he is aware of parents using fake addresses to get their children into schools, and that it is completely unacceptable and unjust.

A landlord in Dartford, who wishes to remain anonymous, says they have received over 60 inquiries from people wanting to rent their property on a short-term basis in order to manipulate the application process. They have refused to participate in this scam, as it goes against their morals and promotes fraud and dishonesty.

According to data from a Freedom of Information request, KCC has conducted 82 investigations over the past three years, leading to 36 primary school places being withdrawn due to fraudulent applications. However, this data only reflects 181 primary schools, as voluntary aided, free, academy, and foundation schools conduct their own investigations.

In 2023, there were 35 investigations, resulting in 18 places being withdrawn, mostly in Maidstone and Swale. Council officials say this is due to people listing addresses they have never lived at, failing to update their address with the local authority, or using a relative’s address.

A spokesperson for KCC says that the admission scheme requires a child’s home address to be their main or only residence, and that proof of ownership or a 12-month rental agreement is required when applying. They add that investigations into address concerns are taken seriously, and if insufficient evidence is provided, the child’s offer may be withdrawn.

In Medway, no investigations have been conducted for primary school places since 2020, but seven secondary school spots have been contested. Medway Council coordinates admission into 68 primary and 19 secondary schools.

Mr. Ratcliffe says that while schools do investigate address concerns, there is only so much they can do. He urges parents to consider the implications of their actions, as it is unfair for local children who are eligible for a place to be denied because of the deliberate actions of others. He adds that while it may be tough for parents and carers, it is important for school leaders to follow the law and offer places fairly.

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