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Catchment if you can: A QUARTER of parents admit to flouting the rules to get their kids into a good school – with some even resorting to bribes

12th January 2022

  • Parents are breaking school admissions criteria to avoid paying an average £82,960 premium on homes in a ‘good’ school catchment area 

  • 17% of parents say they lied, bent or broke admissions rules, while a further 7% say they ‘played the system’ in order to get their child into a good local school; this totals 24% flouting the rules 

  • Pretending to be religious or lying about home addresses are the most common mistruths told in order to secure in-demand school places  

  • 16% of those who admit to breaking rules say they made a ‘voluntary donation’ to the school while 5% admit they offered a bribe

  • Despite the prevalence of rule breaking, over half of parents (56%) who’ve done so feel guilty about it


Wednesday 12 January, 2022, London: With the primary school application deadline upon us (15th January), almost a quarter of parents (24%) admit to flouting school admissions criteria to get their child into their preferred local school, according to new research from Zoopla, the UK’s leading property destination. 


Zoopla surveyed parents of school age children to understand the lengths they go to in order to secure a place at the best schools and found that parents pay on average £82,960 more for a property in the catchment area of a high-performing school, and over £200,000 more in London.


White lies? 

In total, 17% of parents of school aged children admit they lied, bent or broke school application  rules to get their children into their preferred school, while a further seven per cent say they ‘played the system’. This means one in four (24%) parents are going to extreme lengths to secure preferred school places for their kids. 


But bending the rules can take many forms. Among the parents who have, controversially 27% admit to exaggerating their religious affiliation or pretending to be religious in order to get into a faith school.


Property porkies are also prevalent. Among those who broke the rules, over a fifth (21%) say they registered their child at a family member’s address that was closer to their preferred school, one in ten (10%) simply lied about their address, and eight per cent say they temporarily rented a second home (that the child never lived in) within the catchment area.




Outright bribery

Money and school donations also play a key role. One in six parents (16%) who admit they bent the rules say they made a ‘voluntary donation’ to a particular school ahead of applying, while five per cent confessed to offering a bribe. Others offered their time, with 20% saying they volunteered at or became involved with a school ahead of applying for their child’s place, while 14% say they became ‘friendly’ with senior figures at the school in order to curry favour. 


The cost of a home in the right catchment area

Of course, many parents do not bend the rules – some are simply able to move into the catchment area of the school they want their children to go to. In total, 28% of parents who currently have school aged children say they did this. However, the research found that there is a huge premium attached to doing so - which might be prohibitive to some. Among those who bought a home in a good catchment area, the average premium they paid was a huge £82,960 with the figure rising to £209,599 in London. 


How do parents feel about the practice? 

The majority of parents in the UK are against bending or breaking rules to get children into a good school - over half (55%) say they feel it is an ‘unfair practice which should be stopped’  - and over half (56%) who have done so, admit they feel guilty about it. A further 6% of parents admit they are so fed up with the practice that they have ‘grassed up’ another parent and reported them to the school. However, more than one in ten (11%) believe it is acceptable and a further 19% admit it isn’t fair but ‘everyone does it’. 


Daniel Copley, consumer expert, Zoopla, comments: “We were blown away by the figures showing just how many parents are going to extreme lengths to get their kids into the preferred school, which suggests the practice is endemic to the application process and widespread across the country. But even more parents move into the catchment area of the school they want their kids to go to - and we are poised to support them every step of the way.  


“While the premium on a property in the catchment area of a popular local school might appear steep, we know that many homeowners have far more equity tied up in their home than they realise, which could make a move into a good catchment area a possibility. 


“We’ve heaps of tools on Zoopla to help parents find the perfect home. Particularly useful when it comes to catchment areas is our ‘Draw Your Search’ tool that allows parents to outline on a map the area in which they want to live and shows them homes for sale there. Just draw the catchment area of the school you're interested in, and you're away!” 

- Ends -

For further information, please contact PR Team on [email protected] or +44 (0)20 3873 8770.

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