Schools check on cheating parents

01:43, Jan 31 2009

Christchurch school principals are personally door-knocking parents suspected of cheating controversial zoning rules.

Principals say they are accepting fewer students who live outside their enrolment zone, spurring determined parents to trick their way in to preferred schools.

Thirty-seven Christchurch primary schools were set down to hold ballots for out-of-zone applicants yesterday but The Press understands that few, if any, of the schools held ballots because no spaces were available.

"(There are) people who are absolutely hell-bent on getting around the system," Christchurch Boys' High School principal Trevor McIntyre said.

"They are basically deceitful."

During the last month, McIntyre said he had taken to stopping at the homes of students to check they were living in zone, as their parents claimed.

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"We're at the point where we're having families ring us saying did you realise that so-and-so who says they are living in the zone is not living in the zone. That's starting to happen a bit it's that jealousness or that sense of fear."

A student was removed from the Christchurch Boys' High School last year when it was found his parents had forged documents to get their son into the school.

Some parents temporarily moved to an "address of convenience" or claimed they were about to move in to the area, McIntyre said.

"We get them to sign an affidavit through their lawyer to say that they will be living in that house that it's not just an investment house," he said.

Cobham Intermediate acting principal Kevin Rait said the traditional competitive streak over secondary school reputations was moving into primary and intermediate schools.

"We have real estate agents here talk about the Cobham zone they might lumber that in with the Burnside zone," he said.

Cobham Intermediate, in Fendalton, will hold a ballot for out-of-zone applicants on Monday.

Rait did not want to reveal exactly how many out-of-zone applicants were in the ballot, but he agreed scores of parents would be disappointed.

Rait said they had not got to the point of door-knocking suspected cheats, but he knew it was happening.

"We've had people try to up the system living with Auntie and all of this sort of nonsense."

Thorrington School principal Paul Armitage said they usually held two ballots a year but very few students from outside the Cashmere school's zone were admitted.

"For us, it's just new entrants level. We just don't have the places available, really," Armitage said.

He said out-of-zone parents tricking their way into primary schools was "most definitely" a problem.

"In fact I think it's actually more challenging for primary schools," he said. "Yes, we are getting tougher and tougher on addresses and I have been out to check addresses to make sure they are legit."

He had not experienced forged documents but said there were parents who stayed with a relative or took a rental address for a very short time.

"Once you've enrolled the child then that's it. The onus is on the school to prove they have used an address of convenience to gain entry and, crikey, it's not very nice stuff to be having to be going down that road."

Armitage said his personal checks on families were "as diplomatic as possible".

"You might send out a bill and it pops back and you think, whoops, hang on a minute. Or there is a change of phone number and you think, hang on, what's happened here."

Principal of Avonhead School Charles Levings organised the advertising for the 37 schools set down for balloting yesterday.

"Before the process of advertising starts, the board of trustees has the ability to say there may not be any vacancies available whatsoever," Levings said.

It was generally unusual to have a ballot at his school, he said.

"Although we would accept a person's application, we would also alert them to the fact that there are just simply no vacancies here because the classrooms are already over-crowded."

The Press