Random checks to take place on whether Northamptonshire school children live in catchment area

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Education chiefs in Northamptonshire are to begin asking for proof of address from some parents to help prevent school placement fraud.

One of the entry criteria for schools is the distance the child lives from the school.

Although cases are rare in Northamptonshire, parents have tried to get their son or daughter into a desired school by pretending they lived closer than they actually did.

The county council will from this year - with September’s intake - begin random checks on parents, asking them to prove the details on their child’s application form.

A Northamptonshire County Council spokesman said: “In recent years we have not received many applications which have proved to be fraudulent.

“However, it has been recommended [by the Government] that it is good practice to check a small sample of applications to deter parents from using fraudulent addresses.

“Parents are informed about this in the published booklets applying for a Primary/Secondary School Place in Northamptonshire.”

In previous years, only applications that the council had reason to believe were false were investigated.

The new measures look to tighten up the system even further.

In the past three years, 10 investigations have been launched over fraud concerns. Of these, three children were found to have been accepted at schools under false pretences.

One was a child whose parents falsely claimed they had a sibling at Stimpson Avenue School.

In another case, the child was not living at the address stated and was in fact residing in another country.

Although in the above examples, the children had yet to start school, a county council spokesman said pupils can be removed from school in such cases, if it is in the best interests of the child.

He said: “The local authority takes immediate action when learning of fraudulent or potentially fraudulent applications and, if appropriate, places will be withdrawn.

“For all transfer groups where we know who the children are, we are able to produce a report which highlights any address changes and these are investigated by contacting the school.

“To prevent fraudulent applications, it is clearly stated in the composite primary and secondary prospectuses that school places will be withdrawn if obtained fraudulently. This is also emphasised in admissions literature.”