School chosen by Gove for his daughter didn’t adhere to Schools Admission Code

Janet Downs's picture
It’s been widely reported that the daughter of education secretary Michael Gove has been offered a place at the Grey Coat Hospital School for girls, a converter academy in Westminster.

What is less well-know is that the school was being investigated by the Schools Adjudicator about the same time parents were applying for places at the school for September 2014. And the Adjudicator ruled the criteria didn’t adhere to the Schools Admission Code.

The Schools Admission Code came into force in February 2012. It was introduced by this government and has the backing of the law.

Yet the school chosen by Gove flouted the Code on several counts including:

1The criteria discriminated against single parents because they were less likely to have been able to attend church as often as two parents.

2Applicants were given a score to rank applications. The scoring arrangements were unclear.

3Parents were given a score for “regular practical involvement by a parent in the church”. It wasn’t clear what regular practical involvement meant. It also contravened the Code by taking into account parent’s or children’s hobbies.

4The Supplementary Information Form which parents had to complete was not available on the school’s website at the time of investigation.

5Parents were asked to give practical demonstrations of support for the school’s Christian ethos by attending church services. Such practical demonstration is not allowed.

Despite the Adjudicator’s ruling which is legally binding, the Grey Coat Hospital School still gives points for “Regular practical involvement by a parent in the church” and parents are still expected to attend the annual Abbey Service with the school. This could deter applicants from other faiths or none.

All schools are expected to publish their Admission Criteria for 2015/16 by 15 April 2014 so parents applying for places in September 2015 know how their applications will be judged. It will be interesting to discover if regular practical involvement by a parent in the church will still appear on the Admission Criteria for the Grey Coat Hospital School.

The Academies Commission 2013 found that academies were more likely to have complex admission criteria which had the effect of deterring certain pupils particularly those who are disadvantaged. The number of pupils eligible for free schools meals (FSM) at any time in the last six years at Grey Coat Hospital School is 28% which is the same as the national average for state secondary schools (28.3%) but far less than the Westminster figure of 59.8% for secondary state-funded schools. The proportion of FSM pupils at Grey Coat is the lowest among state-funded secondaries in Westminster.


The Adjudicator’s 2013 ruling that the London Oratory School’s admission criteria did not adhere to the Code has been overturned on an “inconsequential technicality”. The Adjudicator had already censured the London Oratory for flouting the Code in 2012 and did so again in 2013. Having two rulings against one school in so short a time is highly unusual.
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Allan Beavis's picture
Mon, 10/03/2014 - 18:42

Thanks for posting this Janet! I wonder if @sarahvine will defend her and her husband's decision?

This sort of revelation does Gove no favours really. It adds to the suspicion and criticism that Academies and Free Schools were set up not just to pave the way for eventual privatisation of state schools but also to enable the most privileged and sharpest elbowed to get the type of school they want. For free. And at the same time appear to be anti-elite by turning their backs on private schools.

Here is Mrs. Gove supporting the state education system. But perhaps only the ones that filter out as much riff raft as they can?

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 11/03/2014 - 07:58

Allan - at the same time as supposedly praising state education, Vine also undermined it. She was educated in the "rickety state education of the 80s" when schools were "scary", even "blood curdling". She was saved by "Dear old Lewes Tech" which "squeezed" A levels out of her while at the same time "teaching the next generation of East Sussex hairdressers how to do root perms." Subtext: with determination one can avoid working in a salon (sniff) provided one attends one of my other half's academies where everyone is expected to aspire to Oxbridge.

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 11/03/2014 - 09:15

Allan - if you liked the Vine article you'll love this one describing the lengths one woman went to ensure her sons got a place at a CofE. Now she's stopped because she's moved into leafy Gloucestershire with its grammar schools and her sons are in pre-prep.

She seems totally unaware that the biggest lesson her sons would have learnt from their mother is about hypocrisy. Perhaps she won't be so boastful when her sons follow her example and lie and cheat to get their own way.

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 11/03/2014 - 10:38

Yes. I think you're right Janet.

Perhaps Sarah Vine was trying to say that Lewes Tech were equally adept at preparing students for an academic career as a vocational one? Unfortunately, she comes across as patronising rather than amusing, smug rather than inclusive. I suspect this has as much to do with bad journalism as with her inherent beliefs.

She has taken to Twitter to defend herself against accusations that she prefers private schools but she hasn't responded to any that question the school's selective process and the fact that it has been under investigation. In fact, she has now blocked me, so perhaps she just wants to insulate herself from uncomfortable truths about her integrity or indeed Mr. Gove's?

Anyway - thumbs up to Lewes Tech in squeezing A Levels out of someone who perhaps thinks they were overeducated? Hairdressing's loss is the Daily Mail's gain. Bravo!

Allan Beavis's picture
Tue, 11/03/2014 - 10:42

Thanks Janet.

I skim read this as I feared the smugness would be infectious. I wonder if she has thought of how embarrassing this is going to be to her children?

Is "ironing the priest's cassocks" a euphemism?

Janet Downs's picture
Tue, 11/03/2014 - 10:59

Allan - if "ironing the priest's cassocks" wasn't a euphemism I think it's just become one.

It could have been worse - she could have been "washing the priest's cassocks".

The things some parents will do to ensure a place in a church school!

School burs's picture
Tue, 11/03/2014 - 23:31

But what no one has commented on, is whether the Goves are in any way likely to have met the very rigorous criteria re church attendance (weekly for 5 years?) along with parental and pupil practical involvement in church sctivities.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 12/03/2014 - 09:05

The Daily Mail, writing when Blair converted to Catholicism (late 2007), wrote "Michael Gove, the [Shadow] Schools spokesman, said: "I was brought up in the Church of Scotland and I attend an Anglican church. I am a believer in mainstream Christianity."

The movie database IMDb says he played a school chaplain in the 1994 comedy "A Feast at Midnight". Would that count? A synopsis of the film's plot says:

"A new student at a British public school forms a secret society centered around cooking and midnight feasting with other school misfits and outcasts."

The question is, was the chaplain part of this rebellious group or did he do his damnedest to squash such dissent? If so, it would be good practice for when he attacks anyone who opposes him as being members of the "Blob", "enemies of promise", yada yada.

Janet Downs's picture
Wed, 12/03/2014 - 09:17

Anyone wishing to watch chaplain Gove can do so in this YouTube clip.

A Cooper's picture
Wed, 12/03/2014 - 18:25

No doubt he will become the first Anglican to be canonized by the Pope for his saintly services to educational reform.

Dave Moore's picture
Wed, 12/03/2014 - 20:41

It would be interesting to see how many more Sunday lie ins the gives enjoy now they can exploit the sibling rule for secondary entry.

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