Parents’ clamour for ‘good’ schools

The desperation of some parents to get their children into the 'best' Norfolk schools has been exposed after a couple placed an advert in the EDP for a luxury home in the 'Wymondham school catchment area'.

The South Norfolk town's schools are regularly at or near the top of the league tables, and have to put up the 'full' signs because of the clamour to get in.

Now the couple have advertised via Abbotts Town and Country for a 'period property' in the catchment area, with 'funds of up to �600,000' to make it happen.

The news comes in the midst of the application period for places in September 2011, with the parents of 8,500 children in Norfolk seeking their first school place in reception classes and 35,000 children transferring between schools.

And it comes a few days after a survey by Netmums found that six in 10 parents were finding the quest for a school place stressful.

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The organisation's website is filled with posts from worried parents who are looking for houses in the catchment area of the highest-ranked schools.

Some of the parents talk about renting a house in a particular area, just to secure a place at the 'right' school.

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Wymondham is not the only area in Norfolk where schools are sought after, but it is rare for parents to go to the lengths of paying for a newspaper advert.

It shows what mums and dads will do in a bid to give their children a head-start in life.

Peter Hurrell, director of Abbotts, said estate agents in Wymondham had to understand school catchment areas to meet the needs of potential buyers.

He said: 'If you take the Wymondham area, we have an office right in the centre of the town and an understanding of the school catchment area is a prerequisite to work in that office.

'We have to understand where people need to live because it's a factor for people moving into the area. It's something we have to be familiar with and can be the only factor for parents.'

Recent figures from Nationwide show that high-performing primary schools add value to properties. It estimates that 10pc higher SATs results enhance property prices in the immediate area by an average 3.3pc.

Earlier research by Savills and Halifax found that the average difference between the price of a house in an area with a 'good' school and an area without was 12pc.

Mr Hurrell agreed that the quality and reputation of a school could have a significant impact on house prices because of demand.

'A house is worth what somebody is prepared to pay. If it means getting a child into a school, cost can be the least of their considerations.'

Richard Snowden, head of pupil support at Norfolk County Council, said: 'We are a rural county and our admissions rules focus on people in the local area having priority.'

And he admitted that for some parents the consideration of which school was a 'big factor' in choosing a house.

But he said that, despite some people's determination to get their children into their chosen schools, there were only four or five examples each year of parents seemingly lying about where they lived to gain an advantage.

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