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.