Fraudsters will be weeded out

11th January 2008 at 00:00
East Renfrewshire joins other authorities in cracking down on enrolment procedures. Elizabeth Buie reports.

High-performing East Renfrewshire education authority has announced plans to tighten up its enrolment procedures for new pupils by asking parents to produce two pieces of evidence to prove their residency.

But its moves to cut down on fraudulent entry to its sought-after schools turn out to be standard practice in some of its neighbouring authorities.

East Dunbartonshire Council, whose schools also receive high numbers of placing requests, requires parents to produce a solicitor's letter confirming proof of purchase of a house in the area (if not already living in the authority), a council tax state- ment or a rent agreement. If not able to produce any of these, then parents must provide a child tax credit or child benefit letter.

Until last session, the authority accepted utility bills and bank statements, but has now tightened up its procedures.

In Glasgow City Council, where figures show that nearly 1,000 families sent their children to a school in a neighbouring authority two years ago, similar rules have been in place for a number of years.

A spokeswoman for the city council said parents were required to provide proof of residency such as a utility bill or child tax credit letter.

East Renfrewshire, however, is instituting tougher procedures for the first time this session for parents registering their children for P1.

A spokesman for the council said that, over the last three or four years, it had detected around 20 cases per year of parents using false accommodation addresses to try and gain entry to its schools, but suspected this was "the tip of the iceberg".

He revealed details of one case where a family had rented a house in the catchment of St Ninian's High for the first week of term. When suspicious attendance officers went to the addres, they found the family sitting round the table in the front room eating their evening meal. However, when they checked the back of the house, the other rooms were completely empty.

John Wilson director of education at East Renfrewshire, said: "Our first responsibility is to the parents and children who live within East Renfrewshire and we have to be certain that we are not failing them by letting pupils in who have no right to be in our schools. That's why we have brought in these extra checks and warn parents detected trying to use fraudulent methods of entry that we will take appropriate action."

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