I and other parents have been involved in a dispute with Camden's admissions team since the beginning of this year because of the maladministration of the reception class admissions round for the 2013 intake. The whole experience has been disappointing and at times baffling.
Our children were attending the Eleanor Palmer nursery when we discovered that several parents were attempting to circumvent the admissions process by renting additional homes next door to the school for the period of the admissions round. We reported these families to the admissions team as did the head teacher but over the course of a six months correspondence it became clear that Camden had no clear idea themselves about what constituted a valid home address and that their definition as laid out in the starting school guide given to parents was also vague and imprecise. (They have since agreed to make the language in the guide more robust after we gave them examples of guides from Bromley, Merton and Hackney councils.)
In the end Camden council sided firmly with the families who had rented temporarily, disregarding the fact that they had additional properties that had, until the beginning of the admissions period, been used as their homes. They also ignored the head's concerns and that of local community and press. In a face to face meeting with us they explained that their would always be wealthy families that could circumvent the system and that as long as the family was living in the residence at the time of the application it would be considered valid.
How can this be said to be fair? The admissions code says that local authorities must have admissions criteria that are fair clear and objective. As we predicted over the summer 2 families moved back to their real family homes. The published cutoff distance for EP this year was 0.1042 and yet these families living 0.18074 miles from the school retain their school places. Camden refuse to admit they got it wrong and refuse to explain themselves to the parents who now find themselves attending non-local schools because they were denied their rightful place.
Further more we have discovered that there is no other body with whom we can take up this complaint. Both the school adjudicator and the ombudsman say that this does not fall under their jurisdiction, so who does ensure that a LEA’s admissions criteria embodies the spirit of the admissions code?
The targeting of certain schools by neurotic parents is so undermining to the whole system. It causes a great deal of divisiveness within local communities and schools that are not deemed desirable are unfairly labeled sink schools with parents removing their children given the first opportunity. Everyone I talk to can supply me with anecdotes about school fraud, particularly with regard to renting property to get into certain schools, all understand the far reaching effects it has on our state school system but it seems we are powerless to do anything to stop it particularly when the bodies whom we put our trust into deliver fairness tacitly accept this misleading behavior.