This documentary (The School Scandal: Playing the System, BBC1 August 2015) shows the lengths parents will go to in order to get their children into the top performing state schools in London.
Some of the schools shown have 10 applications for every place, and catchment areas of just a few hundred meters, meaning competition for these places is fierce to say the least.
It seems that middle class parents are basically prepared to commit fraud in order to make applications to the best schools, demonstrated by the following two strategies:
- Renting accommodation temporarily in the school catchment area while still having a main residence outside of the catchment area (this is fraudulent btw!)
- ‘Pew jumping’ (a term I’d never heard before) – where parents attend church for a year or two just to get their kids into a church school – here a vicar with a spread sheet demonstrates that at one point 11 out of his 23 church attendants basically stopped attending straight after school offers day – clearly they weren’t there to worship a god!
The show follows two case studies of parents trying to get their kids into their local schools – depressingly we see the screamingly middle class parents (dad’s a doctor, mum teaches in a private school) breaking out the champers as they get their child into their first choice local school, while the not so well-off (but by no means poor!) parents fail to get their child into their local church school, despite the fact that the mother had attended the church for 23 years.
The documentary ends up lamenting the fact that the system is clearly unfair – and it’s likely to carry on that way because to date there have been no prosecutions for middle class parents defrauding the system.
NB – This isn’t the only way middle class parents try to reproduce class inequality…. See here for an overview of how this works in the grander scheme of things…