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Sydney parents are producing fraudulent documents to get their children into favoured schools

Date

Alexandra Smith, Amy McNeilage

Parents are so desperate to enrol their children in public primary schools with impressive results or in popular areas that they have resorted to extreme measures such as producing fraudulent documents to claim they live within the school's boundaries.

Some of Sydney's top performing schools have swelled to more than 1000 students and others in areas that have had a recent baby boom have doubled in size in just four years, prompting concerns from parents and education experts about overcrowding and a loss of community in schools.

The latest enrolment data from the NSW Department of Education and Communities shows some primary schools in the eastern suburbs, including Vaucluse and Maroubra Bay, have doubled their student numbers since 2010.

At Vaucluse Public School student numbers have doubled to 301 while at Maroubra Bay the student population has increased from 133 to 261. High achieving schools such as Matthew Pearce in Baulkham Hills are now well beyond capacity at 1184 students. In the inner west, Orange Grove Public School has seen its population increase by 83 per cent to 343 students since 2010.

Many of Sydney's most popular schools in the inner west and lower north shore are so full that principals refuse to accept out-of-area enrolments, even if siblings are already at the school, and insist that parents produce several pieces of original identification with a current address before a child is enrolled.

But despite the strict rules around enrolments, and warnings from schools about the severe penalties for making false claims about addresses, parents are increasingly finding ways to secure a spot at their school of choice.

The Sun-Herald knows of one example of a mother swearing a false statutory declaration about her address to enrol her child in a popular eastern suburbs school while online parenting forums are littered with tips for rorting the enrolment rules, including "borrowing" a stranger's address.

Parents use the addresses of family members to claim they live in the catchment of a school, while real estate agents in sought-after areas say they are swamped with rental applications in January as families try to secure an address in the area.

Oliver Dunstan, from Laing and Simmons in Woollahra, said his agency was leasing 30 properties a month in January and February, many to families wanting "their name on a lease" to get into Woollahra Public.

Woollahra is so full, with 700 students, that its principal has asked the Department of Education to redraw its catchment boundaries to reduce the student population.

Similar schools with good NAPLAN results, including Artarmon, Neutral Bay and Chatswood, which also have selective opportunity classes, are bursting at the seams.

But one parent from Artarmon Public School, which has almost 1000 students this year, said she was "very confident" some of the students were not locals.

''It seems a new demountable is going up almost every term at the expense of play equipment and space to run around, which I think is as critical as sitting in a classroom learning," she said.

Trevor Cobbold, the national convenor of the public education group Save Our Schools, said there were several problems with oversized primary schools.

He said research showed small primary schools performed better than larger schools, although the difference was less pronounced in very socially advantaged areas.

But Mr Cobbold also warned that primary schools could become ''highly socially segregated'' if parents favoured certain schools over their local option.

''School is not just about student achievement; it is about being active, developing gross motor skills and kids learning to get on together,'' he said.

''Parents can be misled about the quality of a school and they end up chasing their own peer groups.''

Chris Bonnor, co-author of What Makes a Good School and a former principal, said parents should not rely on NAPLAN results on the MySchool website when deciding which school to send their child.

"You could train any monkey to train other monkeys to go into a school and raise the NAPLAN scores,'' Mr Bonnor said.

A spokesman for the Department of Education said it had several strategies to manage capacity issues, including building new schools, changing catchments and providing demountables.

''Where possible, the department constructs multistorey accommodation to reduce the impact on a school's play space. It also aims to position demountable accommodation to minimise any loss of play areas,'' he said.

The spokesman said that once a student was enrolled in a public school, they remained enrolled in that school even if their address changed.

But if it was later found that an enrolment in a public school was based on false information, the decision to accept that enrolment could be reversed, he said.

29 comments

  • I wonder if parents ever stop to think how much more their kids could learn if they weren't stuck for hours each week in the back of the BMW or Porsche SUV, going nowhere in Sydney traffic...

    Commenter
    Phil
    Location
    Sydney
    Date and time
    May 04, 2014, 11:35AM
    • My kids read very well in the car no matter what make it is. The real question is

      "I wonder if parents ever stop to think how much their kids would learn if they were not watching mindless thugs playing AFL/NRL each week. Not to mention the block, MKR, the voice, dance whatever"

      I wonder Phil which one is really detracting from the child's educational outcomes

      Commenter
      abc
      Date and time
      May 04, 2014, 12:04PM
    • Although we only drive a crappy old Honda, I find the time spent in the car driving my kids to school are invaluable (they take the bus home). It's the only time where there's no internet or tv or friends to distract them and it's the time where I find out 99% of the important information about what's going on in their lives at school and with their friends.

      Commenter
      eggs
      Date and time
      May 04, 2014, 1:17PM
  • Terrible isn't that parents have to lie to get their children into a public school that has good educational outcomes. Are these schools funded more ? NO, are do these schools have up to date facilities? MOST CASES NOT, do they have smaller class sizes? NO.

    So what makes these schools better and now to that achieve better results. As we know it is not the class size, funding or new facilities. WHAT could it be ? MAYBE just MAYBE it has got to do with PARENTS who more than care but are willing to put some effort into their childs education. You know sort of like the country that we keep like mentioning when it comes to educational outcomes. Good old Finland, yes folks the countury who's society values and prides education and puts personel effort into their childs education not leaving it totally to the state.

    Then we come to Australian whiners the ones that demand the state educational system is not doing enough for little Johnny. and we need more money. Whilst they watch morrons playing AFL/NRL ( even letting their children watching it) another episode of the block or MKR's. Instead these parents could be doing some reading, spelling or maths with THEIR child.

    Dare I say it but these parents are telling lies so their child can be in a cohort, both child and parent, that values education. Sad thing is more parents are not doing it. Instead their aspiration for their child is to be the next mindless AFL/NRL start or to make it onto the voice or big brother. But instead of looking down at these parents SMH writes an article about parents who try to get a better education for their child.

    Commenter
    abc
    Date and time
    May 04, 2014, 11:59AM
    • Wow, I love how you're justifying this. So I guess when you go to apply for your child to attend high school, they can't get in because they're full and it turns out that a number of those children are from out of the area, are you still going to be singing that same tune? Guess what, a parent can still support their child no matter where they go. I went to two small schools that were suffering from declining enrolments. I am now about to graduate with two degrees under my belt and have been highly sought after by a number of schools for a teaching position. Whereas a number of the privately-educated kids I worked with in my first job (Woolies) are still there as a checkout operator/nightfill/whatever, or are working in some job that's normally associated with the "working class" and not with the "upper class" that a private school student would be typically expected to work in.

      Commenter
      The brains
      Date and time
      May 04, 2014, 12:41PM
    • Totally agree. Parents need to spend more time with their kids helping them learn. Especially in primary school, if a parent does this, the school they are sent to is irrelevant.

      Commenter
      Nick
      Date and time
      May 04, 2014, 12:42PM
    • So, fraudsters are heroes? Yay, Team Fraudster! Good on Team Fraudster parents for teaching their kids superior values to the Team Bogan Football parents!

      Commenter
      Party Stooge
      Date and time
      May 04, 2014, 12:48PM
    • Judging by your spelling , I guess you are hoping they get the education you didn't. On a less narky note, parents are making judgements on the relative merits of schools using very dodgy criteria including NAPLAN and HSC results without considering all the variables at play. I feel sorry for parents who spending money on fees and moving house in the search for a "better " school.

      Commenter
      Campo
      Date and time
      May 04, 2014, 1:05PM
    • But by breaking regulations/laws are not the parents teaching their children that adhering to our legal system is optional? Makes one wonder what other not-so-legal avenues such parents would use to better their lot..

      Commenter
      Scott W
      Date and time
      May 04, 2014, 2:08PM
    • @abc - Moron has only one 'r'. Thanks for the laugh!

      Commenter
      Bang Bang
      Date and time
      May 04, 2014, 2:09PM

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