Warning over ‘dubious’ tactics in education

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Affluent parents are using “ethically dubious” tactics such as buying second homes to secure their children’s academic success, campaigners have warned, calling for more measures to even the playing field.

Those in the highest socio-economic grouping are five times more likely to pay for private tuition, research by the Sutton Trust has found, with the most commonly cited tactic for getting into a good school being to attend church services.

Measures should be brought in to even the playing field

Measures should be brought in to even the playing field

Nearly a third of professionals, when surveyed by the social mobility charity, cited anecdotal reports of parents fraudulently buying or renting a second home or using relatives’ addresses to secure access to the best school places.

Well-educated parents have the savvy and networks needed to navigate an increasingly complex schools system, the social mobility charity has warned, alongside those with the financial resources to invest in success.

“Parents from all backgrounds and walks of life want to do the best for their children,” said Sir Peter Lampl, founder of the Sutton Trust and chairman of the Education Endowment Foundation.

“Those with money, education and confidence are more able to give their children the best possible chance of succeeding.

“Middle class and professional parents gain an advantage for their children at every turn. However, there are some practical measures that can be taken to level the playing field, such as fairer school admissions and providing tuition to those who can’t afford it.”

Authorities across Yorkshire have withdrawn or blocked applications after false information was given by parents, with more than 70 investigations carried out in the region in 2014 and 2015 alone.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said parents were only resorting to such tactics because of a stigma when faced with the option of a school deemed to be “underperforming”, adding that every family should have access to a good school.

And among measures suggested by the Sutton Trust to tackle the issue are a system of means-tested vouchers which lower-income families could use to purchase support such as one-to-one tuition or extra-curricular activities.

Schools should also be able to give students with pupil premium greater priority in applications, the report concludes, and random allocation ballots could also be used, particularly in urban areas.