The English education, especially in private schools, is marvelled at the world over. With this awe has come an increase in those striving to enrol their children in the most renowned schools with the aim of leading them on to institutions of global education, Oxford and Cambridge most notably.
There are many hurdles that citizens and non-citizens alike have to face when attempting to enrol their children at the highest-ranking schools. And that is being based in the catchment area. A catchment area is an area around an individual school that is used as a guide to who can be enrolled into that school based on geographic location.
This has caused competition not only for school places, but also consequently housing. This increased competition has inevitably increased prices for homes located in the catchment areas of the most well performing schools.
Peter Wetherell, a Mayfair estate agentwith over 30 years working exclusively in this sector of London has seen the rise of prices in these boroughs. “Since I began working we have seen the rising importance to clients of the locations of education for their children. With the borough being as competitive as it already is, this increase in demand based around being able to attend nearby schools, such as Eaton Square, has seen house prices increase.” Peter continues “From this it is only logical to see the house prices rise as local schools perform better year on year in local Ofsted reports.”
A report conducted by Barratt shows that while Mayfair is a borough with a higher general price tag, when combined with education, Kensington and Chelsea are home to the highest rated schools. In the entire area there is not a single school deemed to ‘require improvement’ or be ‘inadequate’, this performance does come at a cost – a staggering £1,326,653 on average.
The table above demonstrates what Barratt called ‘The Ofsted effect’. This culminates in an £87,000 increase in property values, for every 10% increase in the number of Outstanding schools. Another notable conclusion from the survey is that Harrow is judged to be the best value area to live, based on school performance, likelihood of first preference and property price.
While property prices have risen, it has produced contrasting opinions from parents in various outlets on whether this increased competition for housing is a positive or negative. A September article by The Guardianwas widely praised after bringing to national attention the ‘dubious’ tactics of wealthy parents buying or renting property in specific areas simply to have their children attend their preferred schools. Based on findings from a YouGov poll, the parents interviewed demonstrated that almost a third knew of families that had employed ‘ethically dubious’ tactics to gain a place at a specific school. Furthermore, just under a sixth of parents from mixed backgrounds knew of families using relatives addresses to bypass catchment rules.
A Department for Education spokesperson said:“If it is established that a school place has been offered on the basis of fraudulent or misleading information, then the local authority or an academy’s governing body may withdraw the place if appropriate.”While it seems that those with the expenditure to buy themselves an advantage will continue to do so, it is breaking down the ideology behind the catchment area. This recent survey did show a decrease in the presence of these tactics when compared to an earlier survey in 2013, however Peter Lamp, founder of the Sutton Trust- whose families were interviewed for the survey, notes that that tackling the unequal opportunities at its source, such as this, will help tackle social mobility in wider life.