In some parts of the country, competition for private school places is so fierce that some parents are putting down deposits for their children before they are even conceived.
Head teachers and education consultants say that competition for good schools has now reached ‘bonkers’ proportions, with many parents ‘panicking’ over the race to secure a place.
Many popular independent schools are operating on a first come, first served basis, meaning parents are applying years in advance.
The startling findings were revealed in an investigation of London private schools by the Times Educational Supplement, which discovered parents view the process as way of ensuring a ‘smooth transition from embryo to Eton’.
In some areas last year, up to a quarter of families applying to state schools missed out on their first choice primary.
Disappointed parents who can afford to pay may be turning to the private sector, but this places even more pressure on the independent schools.
Alison Fisher, head of Broadhurst School – a highly oversubscribed pre-prep school in Hampstead, North London – told TES that if parents did not call her within a few weeks of learning they were pregnant they could miss out on a prized morning nursery place.
She added: ‘One woman had called asking if she could get a place for a child not yet conceived.”
Rajni Jayasekera, who runs an online chat group for parents in St John’s Wood, north-west London, said: ‘I’ve heard of people choosing to have elective caesareans. The general feeling among parents is that if you are born in first part of the month you are more likely to get into certain schools.
‘The schools probably don’t select children in this way, but I think parents are concerned that if they don’t apply in the first few days of the month, they may miss out.’