In the past four years, the number of official investigations into primary school application fraud has grown, and while there is certainly an issue with some parents giving false information in order to have their child accepted by the school of their choice, it is also the case that some parents are falsely accused. Before we examine the options available to parents who have been wrongly accused, let's take a moment to look at the culture of admissions fraud that has come to the fore in recent years.
The latest figures show a slight reduction in numbers...
According to the most recent figures released in January 2017 from the Office of the Schools Adjudicator almost half of Local Authorities have reported concerns over fraudulent applications while over half admitted that they had withdrawn offers because of parents misleading schools on their admissions forms.
The vast majority of withdrawn places last year were for children entering primary education. A total of 267 offers were made and then withdrawn in the 2016 period, with 205 of those being for primary schools. This is actually down on the overall figure for 2015, when a total of 284 offers were withdrawn, but this still shows a substantial increase on 2014 figures, which have the number of withdrawals at 186.
How Local Authorities investigate school admissions
Local Authorities use an extensive range of measures to check for fraudulent applications, in the first instance cross-referencing the details of applicants with other databases, most commonly electoral rolls, child benefit details, council tax details and so on.
Many Local Authorities also use spot checks. These can include unannounced visits to applicants' homes, checking through applicants' social media accounts and generally encouraging ‘whistle blowing’. Some Local Authorities even have an official referral form that they encourage members of the public to use if they have any information that may lead to the apprehension of fraudulent applicants.
What to do if you are wrongly accused of fraud
In all the official literature on this issue, there is no mention of when Local Authorities make mistakes in their investigation, yet we know from our own experience that this is something that does on occasion occur. When parents are wrongly accused of supplying false information on their school application forms, it can be incredibly traumatic, resulting in their preferred place for their child being rejected or withdrawn in cases where an offer has already been made.
It is difficult for parents to know what to do in these circumstances, as they feel that the people to whom they would ordinarily turn in such situations - the Local Authorities themselves - are the ones telling them they have broken the law. Many parents in this situation feel they have no recourse to the law and even though they have done nothing wrong, they feel they must accept the Local Authority's ruling.
In these cases, however, we urge you to contact us at Match Solicitors, where our team of specialist education solicitors have a great deal of experience in relation to overturning erroneous decisions made by Local Authorities.
If you have been wrongly accused of falsifying your school admission form, give us a call today to discuss your case.