David Cameron's 'church hopping'

By Jonathan Bartley
April 16, 2010

It got eclipsed with all the focus on the leaders debates, but one of David Cameron's neighbours wrote about him in the Evening Standard yesterday, referring to his personal approach to church schools.

We have highlighted David Cameron's dilemma over church schools before. The 'free schools' policy the Tories are pursuing doesn't look like it would permit new faith-based schools to discriminate in employment and admissions. But the Conservatives seem to be avoiding clarifying the issue. This would put him at odds with many churches whose votes Cameron has been targeting over the last few weeks. It would challenge the practice of many churches who legally give priority in admissions to Christians - and anyone else who wants to pretend to have a faith and attend a church connected to a school - over others in the community.

Despite the free school policy his party is pursuing, David Cameron has played this church-hopping game himself to get his own child into the school of his choice (something raised in 2007 as @churchmouse points out). It is something that thousands of parents - believers and non-believers also do up and down the country every year. But further evidence nevertheless, of his willingness to use religion when it suits for his own advantage.

This is what Jackie Annesley writes about how it is perceived in light of the Tory manifesto launch:

His local school, Oxford Gardens Primary School, which all three of my children attend, is Kensington and Chelsea's largest state primary, with fantastic staff and great children who represent London's huge multicultural mix. Motivated, giving parents — just the sort the Tory leader talked about Tuesday — are a huge help to its head teacher, Sarah Cooper, who relies on them to keep improving the school.

Though the Camerons are in the perfect position to contribute to their community school, they felt that their child would be “a bit lost” there. So she attends St Mary Abbots, an exclusive C of E school two miles away in a significantly richer community. Nor, to my knowledge, do they attend their local C of E church, St Helen's, two streets from their home. The Camerons judiciously began attending St Mary Abbots church three years before their daughter started at its adjoining school.

This is their prerogative and, hey, if parents want to jump through such hoops in order to secure a more exclusive education for their child, who I am to judge? But Dave, don't then start lecturing me about community values. “Do as I say, not as I do” is a stance that has contributed mightily to our disdain for politicians.

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