Clearly school is in for the year. The indications are everywhere. We're whinging about the endless sunshine and how February is the month we should take our summer holidays. Fringes have been trimmed, school lunches packed, exercise books covered, Meet-the-Teacher evenings attended and new sandals purchased.
And, of course, no Back-to-School season would be complete without the villains of the piece - those devious parents who shamelessly lie and cheat in order to get their child into a desirable out-of-zone school.
Here are some of the ways they attempt to do it:
• They give schools the (in-zone) address of friends or distant family rather than their own (out-of-zone) address.
• They move briefly to rental accommodation that is in zone.
• They falsely give the address of a shop or empty section that is in zone.
• They pretend their child is cared for by an in-zone relative during the day although the child actually lives at the parents' out-of-zone place.
• They falsely claim their child is a sibling of a student already at the school.
• They pay to have Sky TV installed at a mate's (in zone) place so they can provide a bill connecting them to that address.
Top schools hire private eye to catch zone cheats called such people "desperately ambitious parents trying to cheat school zone boundaries" while Zone battles move into primary schools described them as "pushy out-of-zone parents".
So exactly what sort of people are prepared to lie, cheat, forge documents, provide false information and generally go to such fraudulent lengths to attempt to cheat the system?
Here are some of the suppositions one could reasonably make about them:
• They're ambitious: They want their children to do well and they believe that this is more likely to happen at a higher decile school than at the local school for which their residence is in zone.
• They're conniving: They're prepared to behave deceitfully in order to get their way.
• They're snobs: They prefer their offspring mix with children from a higher decile school than mix with children from their own area.
• They're hypocrites: They're happy to live among people from a particular socio-economic bracket but they don't want their children educated in the same sort of environment.
• But the principals of these desirable schools have seen it all before. They've set in place a variety of measures designed to catch the liars and cheats. They visit the properties in the evening and early morning to determine exactly who is in residence. They're alert for potential anomalies such as three families claiming to be based at the same address.
Auckland Grammar School (AGS) appointed a fulltime enrolments registrar to investigate cases of parents who supply false information. It has also recently put a private investigator on the case. With an excellent reputation and as the only state boys' school on the Auckland isthmus, this decile ten school is always in high demand. But schools have the right to annul any enrolment based on false information or a temporary residence, and in 2006 AGS evicted 45 boys for zone cheating.
Before enrolment, AGS requires a raft of documents to verify where the student lives.
These include: telephone and electricity accounts, rates notices, Tenancy Agreements and Tenancy Services Bond receipts. If the student has been in the residence for less than twelve months even more documentation must be supplied.
In this environment it almost defies belief that people continue to think they can fool the system. Anyone who tries to cheat like this is clearly not thinking straight.
But, no doubt, these misguided parents would claim that they're only acting in their children's best interests. Of course, if they really did care about their offspring they wouldn't set them such a terrible example - and they certainly wouldn't promote the theory that lying and cheating to get your way is ever acceptable.
What do you think of school zone cheats? Have you ever encountered one? What strategies intended to gain fraudulent admittance to a school have you heard of?