Desperate measures for families in the scramble for school places

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PROPERTY EXPERTS in Yorkshire say the scramble for school places is more fierce than ever as parents are going to increasingly extreme lengths to get their children into the best primaries and secondaries.

School catchment areas rank among the top priorities for families when looking for a place to live or rent, according to leading estate agents.

One industry insider told The Yorkshire Post he recently helped a family in Leeds such as down-sizing to an inferior property less than 100 yards from their old house to ensure their child could gain a place at a preferred school.

Firms also say households now move well before their offspring are due to start formal education.

The National Housing Federation has warned that the growing trend, driven by a rise in demand witnessed across the whole of the region in recent years, is furthering the inequality gap by pricing poorer families out of property markets.

Head of campaigns Anna Brosnan said: “Whilst some parents have the opportunity to move house to give their children the best chance of getting into their ideal school, this just isn’t an option for thousands who are priced out of so much of the market.

“We have spoken to parents who rent privately, many of whom say housing costs have prevented them sending their children to their preferred school. This is yet more evidence of the broken housing market in this country.

“School catchment areas I would consider to be one of the top five considerations for families when purchasing or even renting a property,” said Ben Jacobs, director of Leeds’ Stoneacre Properties.

“Many families are keen to move two to three years prior to their child entering education. A lot of parents focus on the reputation and results certain schools possess.

“I’ve had a family move 100 metres in order to be within the catchment area of a school.

“More recently, I have witnessed families renting out their own home in order to let a property within a catchment zone.”

The comments come after the number of investigations into fraudulent applications for school places is laid bare today.

Estate and letting agent Manning Stainton, which has branches in Leeds, Wakefield and Harrogate, say schools can often be the “sole reason” for a move.

Branch co-ordinator Laura Walker said: “School catchment can be the main priority for certain parents.

“We have had numerous clients who have move and will move specifically to get into certain primary and secondary schools and have seen an increase in this over recent years.

“Some clients have moved within quarter of a mile to be near a better school. One lady moved within two streets to a similar property for this reason.”

In November, The Yorkshire Post highlighted the plight of Kelly and David Taylor, of Huddersfield, who moved house to ensure their son could attend the same school where he went to nursery.

The couple have been forced to home-school five-year-old Aiden after Kirklees Council refused him a place at St Thomas because the family home fell out of the catchment area by 12 houses.

Mrs Taylor said: “I’m not surprised some parents have resorted to lying, or moving house.

“I think it’s more important to people than ever to get their child into a good school. You want the best for them, and that means getting the best education.

“I checked Ofsted reports and everything before I did the applications, I think most do these days.

“I’m still waiting to get Aiden into a school. He’s missed a full term now and it’s starting to worry me.

“I’ve got a three-year-old son who is in nursery and I am already panicking because I think I’ll have the same situation with him. Other parents are the same.”

Exclusive: Record numbers lie to get children into the best schools