THE Prime Minister and his wife, Samantha, have applied for a
place for their elder daughter, Nancy, at The Grey Coat Hospital, a
Church of England Girls' Academy in Westminster, it was widely
reported last weekend.
A report in The Sunday Timessaid that Nancy, who
currently attends a C of E primary school in Kensington, had
already been of- fered a place at Grey Coat. But a spokesperson for
Westminster Council said that parents would not be told the school
to which their children had been allocated until 2 March.
If Nancy does become a pupil at Grey Coat, David Cameron will be
the third Prime Minister in the past two decades - but the first
Tory PM - to choose state education for his children. Tony Blair
and his wife, Cherie, chose the London Oratory School, a
main-tained Roman Catholic school, for their sons, and the RC
Sacred Heart High School in Hammersmith for their daughter. Gordon
Brown and his wife sent their eldest son to the local authority
Millbank Primary, near Downing Street. Nick and Miriam Clegg's
eldest son is at the London Oratory. The daughter of the former
Education Secretary Michael Gove and his wife, the journalist Sarah
Vine, is already at The Grey Coat Hospital.
Grey Coat, founded in 1698, is among the most successful - and
oversubscribed - comprehensive schools in the country. Each year,
it receives about 1000 applications for the 151 first-year places,
allocated according to strict admissions criteria. Once 15 places
reserved for girls with an aptitude for languages are filled, there
remain 80 C of E places, 28 places for girls who attend other
churches, and 20 "open" places. These are allocated first to
looked-after children or those with special health, social, or
educational need, and then according to ability bandings: 50 per
cent go to applicants of average ability, and 25 per cent each to
girls of above- and below-average ability. Bandings are decided by
a test taken by all applicants, the most recent of which took place
on 4 December. Girls who live closest to the school are given
preference when there is a tie on points.
The admissions policy has been modified since last February,
when the Office of the Schools Adjudicator told Grey Coat governors
to simplify their criteria. Applicants could no longer be given
additional points for their involvement with extra church
activities, such as running crèches or youth groups, because this
worked to the disadvantage of single parents. The adjudication
followed an "anonymous" complaint that was widely believed to have
been made by a member of a secularist organisation.
Most C of E voluntary aided schools follow official Board of
Education advice to use local authority admissions criteria, as all
voluntary controlled schools are required to do.
Although prominent secularists frequently turn their fire on
oversubscribed church schools, most sought-after schools with many
more applicants than places are in the non-church sector, creating
the so-called "postcode" lottery. Houses in desirable school
catchment areas attract premium prices.