The annual scramble for school places is something of a London blood sport, with errant parents resorting to underhand methods to win their child a place.
Today, a month ahead of the admission process launch in September, a study reveals the boroughs where all schools are classed as strong. The leading areas, based on their average Ofsted scores, are in a mixture of expensive and affordable postcode areas.
Richmond upon Thames comes out top (average house price £564,000), while Kensington and Chelsea (average house price £1.5 million), also makes the top 10, in seventh place.
Surprisingly, Bromley (average house price only £312,000) takes second place, and Bexley (average house price £226,000) comes fifth.
“People come to Richmond from all over London for the schools,” says Catherine Merrell, sales manager at Antony Roberts estate agents. “You hear of parents renting flats so that they can get their children into a school here, and I have clients who sold a house in Isleworth and downsized to a flat in Richmond to get their children into school.” St Elizabeth’s Catholic Primary School and The Vineyard School in Richmond are both rated “outstanding” by Ofsted. The other top 10 areas are Kingston upon Thames, Merton, Harrow, Barnet, Sutton and Westminster.
Today’s study, by Experian Property Check, also identifies the top areas for school performance nationwide. Sevenoaks, in Kent, comes out on top, thanks to its strong grammar school system, while Hart in Hampshire and Horsham in West Sussex take silver and bronze positions.
Lucian Cook, director of residential research at Savills, said a concentration of good schools was good news for all homeowners, not just parents. “Good schools are a driver of property prices, and areas with good schools often out perform in the early stages of a housing recovery,” he said. “They attract families who know that if they don’t get their first choice school they will get their second choice.”
Asking prices within the catchment areas of a top performing state school can be 35 per cent above national average – or £77,000 in cash terms.
Parents determined to get their children into top performing schools get up to all sorts of well-known tricks such as renting a flat in the catchment to use the address while remaining in their main home, or “borrowing” an address from a friend or relative.
Others pretend a cousin or friend’s child already at the school is a sibling in the hope of getting preferential treatment. Councils say these ruses have increased during the recession as parents who can no longer afford private school fees join the state school system.