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Camerons set their sights on CofE girls' comprehensive

09 January 2015


Making plans: David and Samantha Cameron arrive at the Conservative Party conference prior to the Prime Minister's keynote speech, last October 

Making plans: David and Samantha Cameron arrive at the Conservative Party conference prior to the Prime Minister's keynote speech, last Octobe...

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.

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