As competition to secure a place at the most sought after schools increases, some parents are going to extreme lengths to make sure their children get into their first choice.
According to Elizabeth Coatman, a state school specialist for The Good Schools Guide, the rise in admission fraud sees some desperate parents faking marital breakdowns or forging baptism certificates.
Some parents have even moved house or taken out a short-term rental in order to be in the catchment area of their preferred school – something which Elizabeth says local councils are cracking down on and training their staff to spot.
‘Parents have become more creative – maybe in response to local authorities being very tight now about addresses,’ she told The Daily Telegraph.
‘There are different types of fraud. For example, faking a marriage breakdown to create a situation where a child can live part time with each parent.
‘There are also bogus baptism certificates and hiring private doctors to justify preferential treatment for a child’s needs. Schools often prioritise special needs children, but you need to have medical evidence.’
Reports by the Office of the Schools Adjudicator show that admission fraud remains an issue across the country. In 2015-16, 267 offers were withdrawn on the basis of fraudulent applications, with 75 local authorities reporting concerns.
The previous year, 284 offers were withdrawn – up 53 per cent from 2013-14.
The warning comes as families across England will be finding out today, on what is known as ‘national offer day’, which school their child will attend in September.
About half a million families will receive emails during the course of the day, and letters later in the week, confirming whether they have been offered a place at their first-choice school.
However, despite fewer applications this year, thousands of families are still likely to miss out on their top choice.
Paul Whiteman, the general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: ‘In an increasingly fragmented school system, we lack a coordinated approach to place planning. The government’s own figures show that an extra 654,000 school places will be needed in England by 2026 to meet the 9% rise in pupil population.
‘Until the government creates a national strategy to guarantee there are enough school places for every child in England, the annual anxious wait for families will continue.’