The extent to which rich parents are bending the rules on school admissions to access a particular school has been revealed in a new report.

The findings from the Sutton Trust highlight that rich parents are the most likely to use ‘dubious or fraudulent tactics’ to get their child into a good school.

The education charity also says that nearly half of families with children in a state school have been asked for voluntary financial contributions.

Around a third of parents said they feel under pressure to comply in making a donation, with one in three working-class parents saying they feared negative consequences for their child by not agreeing to make financial donations.

The Parent Power report also looks at the social class divide that’s affecting education with parents of children in state schools saying they feel the pressure for spending more to help their offspring achieve success.

Costs of a state school education

Working-class parents have also highlighted the costs of a state school education, including the price of uniforms and the cost of travelling to school.

However, researchers have also found that parents in the highest social group use free spending techniques to help their children gain access the best possible education.

Around 37% of parents say they know of others who have paid for a private tutor to help their child pass an entrance test.

That compares with 10% of parents with a child at a state school.

Also, 20% of parents told researchers that they know of someone who has been able to afford to rent or buy a second home in a good school’s catchment area, even though this could be seen as potentially fraudulent behaviour.

Children with a wealthy background have an advantage

Sir Peter Lampl, who founded the Sutton Trust, says the survey highlights how children with a wealthy background have an advantage over their peers.

He said: “Parents from all walks of life and backgrounds want to do the best for their children. Those with education, money and confidence are more able to give their child the best chance of succeeding.

“Professional and middle-class parents gain an advantage at every turn for their child.”

He added that these parents are buying homes in the catchment areas for good schools, and also paying for out-of-school extra-curricular activities and private tuition and also providing support with further educational choices.

Sir Peter said: “There are practical measures that can be taken, however, to level the playing field, such as providing tuition for those who cannot afford to do so, and having fair school admissions.”

‘Schools have been stigmatised by a punitive accountability system’

The Association of School and College Leaders’ general secretary, Geoff Barton, said: “The reason for families using tactics to get their child into some schools is often that other schools have been stigmatised by a punitive accountability system that has labelled them as being underperforming.”

He added that a new approach that is more supportive and less harsh, which enables a sustainable improvement and helps ensure that every family has access to a good school locally should be introduced.

Mr Barton added: “Requests for voluntary contributions have grown because schools are cash-strapped and it’s a sign of the funding crisis that’s been caused by the government under-investing in schools.”