Councils get tough on school fraud

Cyril Dixon

PARENTS who fraudulently obtain school places for their children could be prosecuted for perjury, a council's lawyers have been told.

Their children could also be expelled, according to counsel guidance given to the London Borough of Barking and Dagenham.

Barking's lawyers sought advice from barrister Nigel Giffin on how to deal with parents who use false addresses to get children into the comprehensive school of their choice.

The practice, uncovered at popular schools across the country, abuses provisions of the Education Acts which give children priority for places near their home.

Officials at the Association of Metropolitan Authorities (AMA) had been advised that they could not deter the cheats by retrospectively expelling children whose parents had been found out.

Alan Parker, education officer at the AMA, said: "One of our major anxieties is that if it becomes known that you get away with it, it encourages more people to try it."

But Giffin, called in to advise Dagenham hypothetically, said councils may have had more power to tackle the problem. Nobody from Dagenham was available for comment.

However, Parker, who was sent a copy of the advice, said: "There appears to be more remedy than we originally thought."

He added that the advice suggested "if there was an actual clear fraudulent intent, it would be legally arguable that the registration at the school was never properly maintained".

Giffin further told Barking that it would be "highly arguable" that the parents' application constituted perjury. He said a number of high-profile prosecutions would act as a deterrent.