This protocol sets out the procedure by which Torbay Council student services team will investigate potential addresses of convenience.

An address of convenience is an address used for the purposes of gaining a school place which is not a child’s normal, permanent address.

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Admission process

All admission authorities in Torbay have a duty to ensure that school places are offered fairly and accurately, in line with the published oversubscription criteria. They should also ensure that steps are taken to prevent a school place being offered incorrectly.

Within Torbay Council’s published admission arrangements for Community and Voluntary Controlled schools, if a school is oversubscribed in a specific category and a tie-break is required, priority is given to applicants living closest to the school.

The majority of admission authorities in Torbay (Voluntary Aided, Foundation and Academy) also use distance as part of their admission arrangements. The method for measuring these distances will be set out in their determined admission arrangements.

In order to prioritise pupils correctly, admission authorities must verify that distances are being measured from a child’s habitual residence and therefore that an application is being made from a child’s home address.

This policy relates to the detection of addresses of convenience for any application processed by Torbay Council, including applications for Community and Voluntary Controlled schools and applications for schools where the council has been commissioned to process applications on behalf of the admission authority.

Where an application names a school that is its own admission authority, then any decision regarding the use of an address of convenience rests with the school’s governing body and not with Torbay Council. The council will liaise with the admission authority with regard to an investigation. Admission authorities may undertake their own investigations if they consider it necessary.

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Home address

A child’s home address is their normal place of residence and excludes any business, relative’s or childminder’s address. Where formal custody of a child is equally shared between parents/carers, then the home address will be determined by the admission authority according to their admission arrangements.

The address to be used for the initial allocation of places to Reception and year 7 will be the child’s address at the closing date for applications. Changes of address may be considered in accordance with Torbay’s co-ordinated scheme if there are exceptional reasons for the change, such as the family having just moved into the area. However, it is not permissible to use an address of convenience, as defined in Section 4.

After the initial round of allocations, any late applications or in year applications will be considered from a child’s current permanent address. The address used for waiting lists will also be this address.

Any offer of a place on the basis of address is conditional on the child living at the relevant address at the appropriate time. For on-time applications during the normal admissions round this will be the last date for notifying Torbay Council of a change of address, as stated in the co-ordinated admissions scheme. For all other applications, this will be at the time of allocation. Applicants have a responsibility to notify Torbay Council of any change of address.

As part of the application process, applicants may be asked to provide proof of their home address. This is usually their council tax number or, if they are not responsible for council tax, alternative evidence such as a signed tenancy agreement and/or a utility bill.

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Address of convenience – definition

An address of convenience is one which is used by a parent in order to gain a school place where the address is not the child’s normal, permanent home address. The home address is where the child resides for the majority of the school week and where the child’s primary guardian, the person with parental responsibility, normally permanently resides. The definition of ‘home address’ is included in the admission arrangements for each school.

Torbay Council will not generally accept a temporary address if the main carer of the child still possesses a property that has previously been used as a home address, nor will we accept a temporary address if we believe it has been used solely or mainly to obtain a school place when an alternative address is still owned and available to them. In cases such as this, renting out the owned property would not deem it unavailable to the family.

There are no set criteria to define or confirm an address of convenience. It is for the admission authority to determine if, on the balance of probability, the address given on an application is the child’s normal, permanent address. Some examples of when an address may be considered to be an address of convenience are as follows:

  • An applicant applies from an address where the child does not permanently reside, for example a relative’s address
  • A family rents a property, or lives with relatives temporarily, and uses this address in order to gain a school place, whilst retaining ownership of an alternative property. In cases of this nature, the property which is still owned by the family would normally be considered as the appropriate address from which to assess admission, even if the property is not currently being occupied by the family.
  • Where parental responsibility is split between two parents living at different addresses, an application is made from the address where the child does not spend the majority of the school week. A court order should be present that specifies the living arrangements. If residency is truly split equally then a school’s admission arrangements will state how they will determine the correct home address.

There are a number of reasons why Torbay may investigate an address. Some addresses may be checked when specific suspicions have been raised about the application, whilst others may be randomly checked. The reasons an address may be investigated can include, but are not restricted to, the following:

  • Targeting specific applications for oversubscribed, popular schools
  • Spot checking applications
  • Applications where the applicant does not appear to be the child’s legal guardian
  • Where information stored on the council’s database indicates another family unit at the same address
  • Where the applicant’s address does not match the address provided to the child’s current or preferred school
  • Known short-term rental addresses near popular schools
  • Those who have been resident at an address for less than 6 months and who previously resided at an address further away from a popular school
  • Where a change of address is reported after an application is first submitted
  • Where any other suspicions are raised about the permanence and authenticity of an applicant’s address.

Any other authority, establishment or individual may refer the suspected use of an address of convenience to the council. Referrals should be made on the official referral form (appendix). The identity of any parent or member of the public making a referral will be kept confidential as part of any investigation and will not be divulged to any party being investigated. Anonymous referrals will not be followed up.

Specific evidence that indicates an applicant may be using an address of convenience does not need to be present for Torbay Council to investigate an address. The council has a duty to ensure all school places are allocated correctly and fairly and therefore to ensure that addresses used for the purpose of allocating school places are accurate. Any address can be investigated at any time to ensure the authority fulfils its duty.

Both schools and the council have a legitimate interest in detecting where a school place is being offered incorrectly. Schools and the council reserve the right to share any data deemed relevant as part of any investigation. Where any suspicion of an address of convenience involves an address outside of Torbay, Torbay Council reserves the right to liaise with relevant other local authorities as necessary.

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Address verification process

When Torbay Council has decided to investigate an address, a letter confirming this will be sent out to the applicant informing them of the investigation. Examples of this letter are set out in Appendix A and Appendix B. This letter will:

  • Explain the reason why the address is under investigation
  • Describe the council’s definition of an address of convenience
  • Set out why the authority has a duty to investigate addresses
  • Provide an overview of the procedure followed in order to investigate addresses

For addresses that are currently being used on an application where suspicions exist as to whether this is the child’s permanent address then the letter will also

  • Request the applicant to complete a form (Appendix C) that asks for specific details about their address e.g. how long they have lived at the property, details of any other properties owned etc.
  • Request the applicant to provide copies of specific documentation to verify the address.

The documents (copies) that will be sought to verify an address will be as follows:

Group 1

  • Exchange of contracts or legal rental agreement for a period of no shorter than one year
  • UK driving licence (photocard or paper)
  • Valid photo identify card (EU countries only)

Group 2 – all dated documents should be within the last 3 months

  • Bank or building society statement
  • Utility bill
  • Credit card statement
  • Addressed payslip
  • Certificate of British nationality
  • Official correspondence or documentation from the Benefits Agency, the Employment Service, the Inland Revenue
  • P45/P60 statement
  • Valid NHS card
  • Council tax bill
  • Mortgage statement
  • Financial statement
  • Store card statement

Applicants under investigation will be asked to provide either one document from Group 1 and three documents from Group 2 or five documents from Group 2.

If a previous property is still owned by the applicant then evidence will be required showing that this property is no longer the habitual residence of the family. This would include evidence that the property is either let out on a long term rental (6 months plus), that the address is uninhabitable, or that the address is in the process of being sold and the family live permanently in an alternative property. This evidence is required to prove that an applicant was not living at this property at the time of making an application but does not, in itself, prove that an address of convenience has not been used.

Where suspicions exist for addresses used during the allocation of school places and the applicant has subsequently moved, then specific documents will be sought (Appendix B). The council reserves the right to request any documents it thinks necessary. The evidence required will need to prove that no other alternative address was owned or could have been used at this time.

The applicant will be given 14 calendar days to provide the documents requested. This timescale is set to ensure that the applicant has enough time to collate and return the documents requested, but also to ensure that the documents already exist and are not requested as a result of the investigation. During this period an application will continue to be processed until the outcome of the investigation is determined. No application will be disadvantaged if the investigation confirms the original address stated is indeed the child’s permanent residence.

Torbay Student Services reserves the right to cross-check address information with other Torbay Council departments, other local authorities, current/previous schools and any relevant agencies providing services for these organisations.

If an application is still being processed and no school place has been offered, and no reply is received to the initial request for information, a letter will be sent to the applicant explaining that the application will not be processed until a response is received. The application will not be withdrawn but will be considered as pending, until the requested information has been received. A limited time period (normally 7 calendar days) will be given to respond to the request. The letter will explain that, if no response is received within the specified timescale, the application will be withdrawn at the end of that period.

If a school place has already been offered, and no evidence is submitted following the warning letter the offer of a place will be withdrawn. Checks may be made to ensure that any child of compulsory school age is receiving appropriate full-time education. Parents of children of compulsory school age who are not receiving full-time education are liable for prosecution.

Where the requested evidence is provided by the deadline the council will make a decision as to whether or not the address can be accepted as the child’s permanent residence. In making this decision the council must consider the balance of probability as to where a child permanently resides.

If satisfied with the response, the investigation will be closed and the applicant informed of the decision in writing.

Torbay Council reserves the right to re-open any closed case at any time if new and credible information is received that questions the validity of an address.

If, following receipt of information and documentation, the Student Services team is still unable to make a decision regarding the validity of an address, then further steps may be taken to investigate it.

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Further actions

If the information provided has raised further queries that need to be explored, the Student Services team will write a second letter to parents that will clearly request further information or documentation to assist with the decision making process. Although Torbay Council reserves the right to request as much information and documentation as it believes necessary to make a decision, the aim of this process is to ensure that parents are required to provide information as few times as possible in order to facilitate a prompt resolution to the investigation.

Where there are still questions regarding the validity of an address, Student Service staff may make unannounced visits to the applicant’s address or any other address suspected to be the residence of the family. The purpose of these visits will be to verify that the address information provided on the application is accurate. All visits will be attended by two members of the Student Services team. No visit will be undertaken in a covert manner but they will be unannounced in order to best assess the regular occupant at a specific address.

If an address is unoccupied at the time of a visit, a letter will be left confirming that an attempted visit took place. This letter will ask the occupant to contact the Student Services team within 24 hours to confirm receipt of the letter and details of the occupant. It would be expected that an applicant living at the address stated on an application should reasonably be able to pick up correspondence left and respond within 24 hours. If contact takes longer than 24 hours, then the applicant must explain and evidence why they did not respond in the specified time.

If, following investigation, the Student Services team is satisfied that, on the balance of probability, an address of convenience has not been used, the investigation will be closed and the applicant informed of the decision in writing. Torbay Council reserves the right to re-open any closed case at any time if new and credible information is received that questions the validity of an address.

If, following either the initial investigation or any further investigation, the Student Services team concludes that, on the balance of probability, an address of convenience has been used on an application, a letter will be sent to the applicant confirming this. This letter will clearly state the factors taken into account in order to make the decision as well as the steps that will now be taken with the application, as set out in section 7. It will also set out which address will be treated as the family’s home address for the purpose of their application for admission to school.

This letter will give the applicant a further 7 days to respond and make any final representations. If no further substantial information is received by this time, then the authority’s decision will stand.

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Address of convenience confirmed

Where an address of convenience has been confirmed, the authority may take a variety of steps. The steps taken depend on the current status of the application as well as the type of application made. The various steps are set out below.

If no place has yet been allocated, the application will be withdrawn and the applicant requested to make a new application from the correct address. If the suspected child’s home address falls outside Torbay then the applicant will be directed back to their home authority if they are making an application during the normal round admission i.e. entry into reception or Year 7 the following September. The new application will be processed in the same way as any other application received on that date and may well be processed in the second or third round of applications.

Where a place has been allocated but the pupil has not yet started at the school the Student Services team will assess the situation to see whether the allocated place would still have been allocated on the basis of the confirmed home address. If the allocated place would not have been offered if the correct address had been used, then both the application and the place offered will be withdrawn. A place will be offered at the closest school to the home address with a space available and if desired the parent will be able to make a new application from the correct home address. The new application will be processed in the same way as any other application received on that date and may well be processed in the second or third round of applications.

If the child has started at the school but has attended for less than one term (two half-terms) Torbay Council reserves the right to withdraw the place that has been offered. An alternative school place will be offered prior to the withdrawal of the original offer. The alternative school place will be at the school closest to the confirmed home address where there is a space. The applicant may wish to apply for an alternative school.

If a place is withdrawn then the child will be expected to leave their school no later than the end of the current half-term, on the assumption that an alternative school place has been offered. If no alternative place has been offered then the child would not be expected to leave the school.

If a place is withdrawn and an alternative place offered, then a child will be expected to leave the school whether or not the place is accepted by the parent/carer. If the alternative school is not accepted it will be the parent/carer’s duty to ensure their child receives full-time education once they leave their current school. Checks may be made to ensure that children of
compulsory school age are in fact receiving full-time education.

If the child is attending year 6, year 10 or year 11, or has been attending the school for more than a whole term (based on a three-term year) then the place will not be withdrawn.

In all cases where it has been deemed that a school place has been gained based on an address of convenience and the child continues to attend the school in question, then the admission authority reserves the right to deny sibling priority within the oversubscription criteria to any subsequent children applying for the school.

The Student Services team reserves the right to pass details relating to addresses of convenience to other council departments, where necessary, to assist in the detection of fraud.

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Further admission applications

Following a decision that an address of convenience has been used, any subsequent application should be made from the family’s normal home address. The LA will set out which address it expects this to be in the letter sent following an investigation.

If a family continues to reside at an alternative property that is not considered by the Council to be the family’s normal home address, for example where they continue to live in a rental property but own a property elsewhere, then the family will be expected to apply from their normal home address. If this is the case, the application should include a covering letter explaining that they are living at an alternative address and they wish this to be used for correspondence. The application will be assessed, for admission purposes, from the normal home address.

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Right of appeal and complaints

Applicants do not have the right to appeal against the council’s decision that an address of convenience has been used. They will, however, have their statutory right of appeal if, following an application, a place is not allocated at a preferred school.

Although applicants do not have a statutory right to appeal against an address of convenience decision, if they are unhappy with the decision reached they can make an official complaint to us.

At any time during this process an applicant may make a complaint against us by contacting the Local Government Ombudsman; however, the Ombudsman will normally expect all stages of our complaints procedure to have been completed before considering a complaint.

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Appendix 1
lnitial investigation letter to applicants where a child’s current address is under investigation.
Appendix 2
Initial investigation letter to applicants where a child’s previous address is under investigation.
Appendix 3
Address of Convenience Investigation - Further Information Form
Appendix 4
Address of Convenience Investigation – Referral Form

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