Thousands of parents battle it out to get children into Havering’s top two schools

Isabel Cattermole, Havering Council's director of children's services

Isabel Cattermole, Havering Council's director of children's services - Credit: Archant

Nine children are competing for every place at Havering’s top secondary schools, with investigators being brought in to crack down on fraudulent applications.

Coopers’ Company and Coborn School, St Mary’s Lane, Upminster, and Hall Mead School, Marlborough Gardens, Upminster, received more than 1,000 applications for entry into Year 7 this September.

In a sample of 100, Havering Council’s fraud team found nine were fraudulent, with a quarter deemed “suspicious”.

Director of children, adults and housing at the council,

Isobel Cattermole, said: “We don’t want parents who are very able and very clever to manipulate the system, while parents who live down the street don’t get a chance.”

Council figures showed at primary level, Upminster Infant School, St Mary’s Lane, received 333 applications for 90 places, while Scotts Primary, Bonington Road, Hornchurch, had 286 for its 60 places – around four per opening.

The council said five applications were withdrawn after investigations, with three still being looked into.

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“I wouldn’t want a system where only those very pushy and aggressive parents get what they want and others didn’t – that’s a danger,” said Mrs Cattermole.

Ofsted statistics show of the borough’s 18 secondary schools, seven rated as “requiring improvement” in their most recent inspections, falling below the top categories “good” or “outstanding”. Hall Mead was rated outstanding, while Coopers’ was rated good.

Of 56 primaries, 37 were “good”, eight “outstanding” and 11 “requiring improvement”.

“We want all schools to be good and outstanding because that decreases the likelihood of parents committing fraud,” said Mrs Cattermole.

“We don’t expect parents to cheat. What message does that send to a child?”

Last year Havering became the first local authority to prosecute a parent for forging a tenancy agreement in an attempt to get her daughter into a borough school.

Lura Pacheo, who lived in Barking and Dagenham, was fined £500 and given 100 hours’ community service.

Mrs Cattermole said some places were withdrawn after applications were found to be fraudulent.

“It’s a criminal offence and people just don’t get that somehow.”