Council purge on bogus enrolments

15th August 1997 at 01:00
Parents in East Dunbartonshire will have to prove where they live if they want their children enrolled at local schools. A council investigation found some lied about their addresses when applying to St Matthew's Roman Catholic primary in Bishopbriggs. One parent was reported to have rented a house for three months in the catchment area.

The situation reached crisis point when three placing requests were granted on appeal. The library and general purpose room have been turned into classrooms because of overcrowding and the school would have had to run more composite classes. Three sets of parents withdrew their applications following a check on addresses.

A number of new measures have now been announced.

- Parents will have to produce a child benefit book, council tax book, direct debit mandate or rent book.

- Pupils who live with grandparents or extended family will need legal confirmation of guardianship.

- Parents moving into the area will have to show written confirmation from a lawyer that they have concluded a house purchase.

- Failure to produce correct information may result in the withdrawal of the child's place.

Ian Mills, the council's director of education, said overcrowding at St Matthew's had pushed the council into giving priority to parents living in East Dunbartonshire. The regulations would only be feared by parents with something to hide, Mr Mills said. "Where there is any degree of doubt, we will be looking for some substantial confirmation of a pupil's place of residence. It is important to be seen to be fair. Schools are under pressure because of placing requests," he said.

A public meeting at St Matthew's had shown strong feelings among parents that the system was being abused. The council has previously petitioned the Secretary of State to amend the placing requests legislation.

Andrew McGarry, the Roman Catholic Church's representative on the council's education committee, welcomed the crackdown. Mr McGarry said St Matthew's was a "very attractive school" which had attracted placing requests from parents outwith the area and had been full for a number of years.

- Plans to integrate St Ann's Roman Catholic primary with a neighbourin g non-denominational school have been further delayed by South Ayrshire while talks take place with parents.

The council wants to establish a joint campus by August next year with Annbank primary in the Annbank building. Storm damage last winter forced the transfer of 47 St Ann's pupils to Annbank and the council now considers the St Ann's building beyond economic repair. Property experts say renovation would cost #163;365,000. The school was less than half full.

St Ann's would move into the infant wing and the Annbank building would be extended. Some facilities would be shared. Annbank parents fear the loss of space would damage their children's education.

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