Writing in the Mail on Sunday
, Peter Hitchens turns on the Goves
for selecting the Grey Coat Hospital School for his daughter. He should have chosen Burlington Danes Academy on the grounds that Gove has praised it enough in the past and it’s only a “few minutes’ walk from the Education Secretary’s modest home”, Hitchens writes.
The first is a fair point – Education secretary Michael Gove and PM David Cameron have both poured effusive praise over Burlington Danes several times and its head, Sally Coates, has been made a Dame.
On the second point, Burlington Danes is in Hammersmith and Fulham not in Westminster where Grey Coat Hospital is situated. I’ve no idea where Gove’s “modest home” actually is (I thought he was in Surrey – has he flipped again?). If it’s not in Westminster then he presumably managed to negotiate the admission rules which, as Hitchens rightly points out (I never thought I’d ever write that), are labyrinthine.
Hitchens likes Grey Coat – it provides education that other parents can only dream of. It’s like a grammar school and “defies egalitarian dogma” (that means it can keep the riff-raff out). It doesn't select by ability because "selection by ability in actually illegal", Hitchens writes. (Really? Has he never heard of those areas which still have grammar schools Lincolnshire, Kent, Birmingham, some parts of London…?).
“Why is this sort of filtering allowed, while open, honest, straightforward selection by ability is against the law?”
But it isn’t “allowed”. It’s likely that Grey Coat is flouting the Admission Code in exactly the same way as London Oratory.
Hitchens ends with an accusation levelled at Gove and Cameron:
“Could it be that these salesmen don’t actually want to buy their own product? Could it be that they know in their hearts that their supposed school reforms, which they ceaselessly trumpet to us, are a mass of froth, oversold and boosted by dubious statistics?”
I couldn’t have put it better myself.
27 March 2014. The original article said, "It [Grey Coat school) selects by ability even though selection by ability in England is now illegal, Hitchens writes." Peter Hitchens has pointed out he did not claim Grey Coat selected by ability. I'm happy to make the correction.