Monday 18 December 2017

Lying your way into primary school is standard practice

I'm sick of parents bragging about how they've cheated the enrolments system

As if dishonestly procured baptism certs weren't bad enough, it seems the non-Catholic families of Ireland have yet another obstacle to contend with for school places.

Sure, we already know we're up against Catholics for hotly contested spots, but we also have to contend with the generation of great pretenders on enrolment day clutching a baptism cert that's hardly worth the paper it's written on. It's almost fashionable these days to brag about your ill-gotten gains: "Oh, we're not religious," you clarify, "but we wanted to make our lives easier."

Well good for you. Congratulations on your hypocrisy. Maybe you'll surprise me with an original story as I've heard every explanation going from parents seeking to justify their actions. I can't be the only one who's smiled politely as yet another non-believer vindicates their self-serving actions.

Having endured the uncertainty last year, when our local school informed us on enrolment day that there may not be any room for our non-Catholic child (despite his sibling already attending), I'm now facing the same situation again for my youngest.

And while neither church nor school is remotely interested in this systematic baptism-cert fraud it seems there's another great enrolment scam taking place that no-one's talking about.

It may not be happening on the same scale as the Catholic-for-convenience sign-up, but it's clear that some families are lying about where they live in order to gain entry to preferred schools. It's hardly a new phenomenon, but becomes more significant as schools become more crowded than ever.

The primary school system uses parishes as district boundaries, and is expected to accommodate, where possible, the children who live within that area. If you live outside the parish line your child must go on a waiting list and, once all parish kids are accommodated, the school may then offer any remaining school places to non-parish kids.

It seems logical enough, but parents who dislike the system can become parishioners overnight by conveniently using granny's address on their paperwork. "Sure I grew up there," they guffaw, "so it's practically home anyway!" Practically. Except it isn't.

Schools wise to the practice are trying to stamp out this deceit by demanding bills at enrolment that show your home address. The problem with this fix is they're not all demanding utility bills, which means a savings account or mobile phone bill sent to a grandparents' house can be considered proof enough that you're resident in the parish. One woman I know of has gone so far as to take over payment of her mother's electricity bill to make it look plausible.

While these parents are clearly cheating the system many have convinced themselves that they're merely working the parameters because it's what their child deserves. If your child dishonestly gets a place in school, either through an insincere faith declaration or use of false address, then whose place do you think they're after taking? Who is next on the list below your kid's name?

Maybe you don't care. Maybe you think their parents should have played the game like you did, because, let's be honest, cheating your way into school is so commonplace these days it almost seems remiss not to follow the flock.

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