Many parents are willing to go to great lengths to help ensure their child gets a place at a top performing school. Would you move house to be within a school catchment area to secure a place? How much extra would you be prepared to pay for your property? Is it cheaper to send your child to a private school?
According to research by Confused.com, almost 30% of parents would be prepared to move house just to be in the catchment area for a good school.
What’s more, parents say they would be willing to pay £19,000 extra, on average, for a house in the catchment area for a good school. Some parents are willing to pay in excess of £50,000 more.
With such an extra ‘school catchment area premium’ for property around the most academically successful schools, would it work out cheaper to send a child to a private school instead?
Confused.com calculated that the average house price in England is £275,721. In contrast the typical price of a house close to Lowbrook Academy, Maidenhead, one of England’s best state schools according the Primary school league tables, is £481,023.
This means, buying a property in the catchment area of Lowbrook Academy would cost an additional £205,302.
Borrowing this amount over a 25-year period at an interest rate of 1.99% would cost £102,137.75 (£205,302 x 1.99% = £4085.51 x 25 years = £102,137.75)
However, sending one child to Claire’s Court Schools, Maidenhead, SL6 6AW from reception to year 6 would be far less at just over £66,000, based on the fees stated for the school.
What about adopting ‘underhand tactics’ to secure a school place?
Many parents are willing to adopt underhand tactics to secure their preferred school place with nearly 10% admitting to using a false address and almost 25% considering renting an additional property in the catchment area.
Others admit to feigning religious observance to get into a well performing local school, falsely claiming that a sibling already attends a local school to increase their child’s chances of acceptance, paying for extra tuition to try and get a place or even send their child to a nursery that has good links with a good primary school.
When should you start planning for the your child to start school?
It seems it’s never too early with some parents making decisions on where they will live before their children are even of school age. Some start thinking about it even before their child is born and some 12% actually put their unborn child’s name down on a school waiting list.
All these findings come amid mounting concerns over rising primary school populations leading to a shortage of school places for children. The Department of Education has recently revealed that six primary schools have classes with just one teacher to 70 children, while nearly 100 have classes with at least 50 pupils.
These figures raise concerns for parents with many worrying that there are simply not enough places at good schools.
What should the criteria be for school admission?
Rather than proximity to a school, nearly one in six parents believe that school places should be given out based on a child’s academic ability. A further 13% believe parents should be allowed to pay to get their children into a good state school.
In contrast, nearly a quarter of parents think school admission shouldn’t just be based on who can afford to live nearby.
Gareth Lane, Head of Home Insurance at Confused.com, says: “Although household finances remain stretched, it is significant to see from our research that a number of parents are willing to pay more on the price of a new home to ensure their child is in the catchment area for a good school.
“Choosing the right school for your child is possibly one of the most important decisions a parent will make.”
Diane Ray, MoneyHighStreet.com: “Most households have to budget very carefully to take control of their finances and for many the idea of sending children off to a private school is assumed not to be possible from a financial perspective. These figures from Confused.com, however, shed some interesting light on the actual cost many families are incurring to send their children to a top state school. Perhaps it is not such a clear cut decision between the state vs private school option as one might assume.
‘What is clear though is that personal finance decisions should not be taken lightly. Careful research and planning needs to be undertaken and in the case of schools this may well mean taking action even before your baby is born.’
The ‘My Neighbourhood’ tool.
To help parents and prospective buyers search local house prices, school ratings and insurance premiums in their area, Confused.com has launched the ‘My Neighbourhood’ tool, providing people with valuable information about their local area.
Claires Court School admission fees
Just to add insult to injury, estate agents know they can easily sell any house in a good catchment area, but they don’t lower their fees. Thousands of pounds earned for no real work. Which means prices go even higher. If you can avoid an estate agent both the buyer and seller can save a good amount. We put leaflets through doors when we were looking for our current house, and catchment area really mattered. These days there are some websites trying to help like http://www.wouldliketomove.uk (though they don’t have many homes listed yet).