Sally Weale cites Sutton Trust research on parent power in an article for the Guardian. 

Wealthy parents are renting and even buying second homes in the catchment areas of highly sought-after schools to circumvent admissions criteria and secure a place for their child, according to a study.

A YouGov poll of parents for the Sutton Trust indicates there is widespread cheating among middle-class families, with one in three parents claiming to know families who have used “ethically dubious” tactics to win a place at their school of choice.

While they are less likely to admit to fraudulent tactics themselves, when asked whether they knew of others nearly one in six parents (16%) from all social backgrounds said they personally knew families who had used a relative’s address to secure a place.

A fifth (20%) of parents from the highest social group said they knew someone who had either bought or rented a second home in the catchment area of a good school, compared with just 6% among those in the lowest social class.

The wealthiest parents were also twice as likely to know someone who had moved house to get into a particular school – 33% compared with 15% of the most disadvantaged parents.

The Parent Power 2018 report, published on Thursday, reveals the extent to which a parent’s capacity to access the best educational opportunities for their child depends on their ability to pay, not just for an address in the right area but also private coaching and extracurricular activities.

The most wealthy parents were almost four times as likely to know families who had paid for private tuition to pass a school entrance exam – 37% compared with 10% of those in the lowest social group.

Extracurricular activities were also beyond the reach of many of the poorest families. Less than half (45%) of the least-advantaged parents said their children had taken part in extracurricular activities like music lessons, language classes, sports and performing arts clubs, compared with 84% of parents in the wealthiest group. Children from less-well-off homes were much more likely to take part in activities that were free.

The most commonly used tactic to get into some of the most desirable schools is to develop a newfound faith and attend religious services to meet school admissions criteria where pupils are selected on the basis of church attendance.

According to the poll, which was conducted among more than 1,000 parents of school-age children, one in three parents (31%) from all backgrounds knew families who had done this. A slightly smaller proportion of parents surveyed (29%) said they knew families who had appealed against admissions decisions.

Asked about the lengths they had gone to personally to get their child into their school of choice, the figures were predictably lower – 10% of those in the top social group said they had moved house into a specific catchment area, compared with just 1% of working-class parents.


Get the full story or read the research.