What lengths would you go to, to get your child into a good school? Our latest research reveals a quarter of parents have bent the rules. Here’s what they did.

With the primary school application deadline upon us (15 January), almost a quarter of parents (24%) admit to flouting school admissions criteria to get their child into their preferred local school, according to our latest research.

We surveyed parents of school age children to understand the lengths they go to in order to secure a place at the best schools.

And we found that parents pay on average £82,960 more for a property in the catchment area of a high-performing school.

In London, that figure rises to more than £200,000.

Nearly a fifth of parents lie to get their kids into a good or outstanding school

In total, 17% of parents of school aged children admit they lied, bent or broke school application rules to get their children into their preferred school.

 A further seven per cent say they ‘played the system’.

That means one in four (24%) parents are going to extreme lengths to secure preferred school places for their kids.

But bending the rules can take many forms.

Among the parents who have, 27% fessed up to exaggerating their religious beliefs to get into a faith school.

Property porkies are also prevalent.

Among those who broke the rules, over a fifth (21%) say they registered their child at a family member’s address that was closer to their preferred school.

One in ten confessed they simply lied about their address, and eight per cent admitted they temporarily rented a second home (that the child never lived in) within the catchment area.

One in six parents confessed to outright bribery of their preferred school

Money and school donations also play a key role.

One in six parents (16%) who admit they bent the rules say they made a ‘voluntary donation’ to a particular school ahead of applying, while eight per cent confessed to offering a bribe.

Others offered their time, with 20% saying they volunteered at or became involved with a school ahead of applying for their child’s place.

A further 14% said they became ‘friendly’ with senior figures at the school in order to curry favour.

What’s the cost of a home in the right catchment area?

Of course, many parents do not bend the rules – some are simply able to move into the catchment area of the school they want their children to go to.

In total, 28% of parents who currently have school aged children say they did this.

However, the research found that there’s a huge premium attached to doing so – which might be prohibitive to some.

Among those who bought a home in a good catchment area, the average premium they paid was a huge £82,960 with the figure rising to £209,599 in London.

How do parents feel about bending the rules? 

The majority of parents in the UK are against bending or breaking rules to get children into a good or outstanding school.

Over half (55%) say they feel it is an ‘unfair practice which should be stopped’ and the 56% who have done so, admit they feel guilty about it.

A further 6% of parents admit they are so fed up with the practice that they have ‘grassed up’ another parent and reported them to the school.

However, more than one in ten (11%) believe it is acceptable and a further 19% admit it isn’t fair but ‘everyone does it’.

Key takeaways

  • Parents are breaking school admissions criteria to avoid paying an average £82,960 premium on homes in a good or outstanding school catchment area
  • 17% of parents say they lied, bent or broke admissions rules, while a further 7% say they ‘played the system’ in order to get their child into a good local school; this totals 24% flouting the rules
  • Pretending to be religious or lying about home addresses are the most common mistruths told in order to secure in-demand school places
  • 16% of those who admit to breaking rules say they made a ‘voluntary donation’ to the school while 8% admit they offered a bribe
  • Despite the prevalence of rule breaking, over half of parents (56%) who’ve done so feel guilty about it