Sheela-na-Gig aka Jeanne Rathbone

More tales of hypocrites for CofE schools

Posted in Sharp-elbowed CofE mother by sheelanagigcomedienne on March 17, 2014

Here is another item which was mentioned on our local Print website about a mother/journalist  explaining in The Telegraph Polishing wine chalices and learning the Gospels: how I got my children into the perfect school’  what she did and is prepared to do as a sharp elbowed ‘Christian’ to get her children into a selective and exclusive CofE school for her offspring. She is responding to David Laws – the Schools Minister who defended the ‘sharp-elbowed’  parents who will do anything to get their children into the ‘good’ – selective, snob –  schools which try to ape public schools except for the pupil /teacher ratio, the expensive sports and other facilities, the advantages of the ‘old school tie’ network etc etc.

I wondered if it was a spoof, at first. Apparently she is a journalist who specialises in undercover operations exposing criminals and wrongdoers for the TV series and is writing about her exploits.  James Blonde! Meet the English Girl Who Went Undercover to

It would seem that The Telegraph readers approve of such determined behaviour and would laud it as good parenting. When I checked out this woman I found that I had previously read an item by her in The Guardian about her Peter Pan husband who had finally grown up after eight years of marriage – It was only when she threw him out that he realised he had to give up his laddish, late-night drinking ways and take responsibility.

Isn’t interesting how chameleon journalists can write for these different newspapers and adapt their material and style. This is from   The Guardian     My Peter Pan husband is growing up at last | Life and style | The

Then I found another article this time from The Daily Mail about about how she escaped a gang attack.  Lisa Brinkworth and her children were caught in a gang Dail

I’d drawn attention to my fleeing family, and a splinter group gave chase after us, calling out ‘get the whities’…….We’ve now decided to move out to the countryside, albeit close enough to the city so that the boys can still go to the same excellent schools.

So, there are discrepancies about why she and her family moved homes but she can obviously adapt her personal and family life to fit any story  she writes.

Lisa Brinkworth’s elbows are blade-sharp when it comes to getting her children into the best schools. She explains what lengths she went to, even offering to iron her priest’s cassocks

Lisa Brinkworth and her brood.

It wasn’t sheer luck that enabled our two eldest sons to land places in an outstanding, oversubscribed Church of England school in West London. We moved heaven and earth to get them there. We gave up our spacious house in a leafy suburb for a cramped two-bedroom, basement flat in the school’s London catchment area. I gave birth to our second child two days after moving in. Since we would need to attend our local church for two years before applying for a coveted nursery place for our first son, there was no time to lose.

As well as our unblemished church attendance record, I was required to take up ‘voluntary service’ in the church if we were to secure the children’s places. Consequently I helped run the Sunday school – collecting cotton wool balls and fabric trims for shepherd collages and reading up on the Gospels. Every Tuesday morning, I would wheel my newborn and toddler through the church doors, and attempt to pacify one and occupy the other as I polished silver candlesticks and wine chalices. The boys of course were too young to understand this was all for their own good.

I was over the moon when I opened the letter informing me that our eldest son had been granted a school place. And I jumped for joy again, a year later, when our second son got in.

But I couldn’t afford a lapse even when both boys were firmly ensconced in their classrooms. There were far too many Rottweiler-like mothers outside the school gates waiting for a parent to neglect their church duties and subsequently free up a school place. And so I doubled my efforts in the church with four jobs to cope with. So determined was I to keep our places, I even offered to iron the priest’s cassocks!

When baby number three arrived, I’m quite sure our family accomodation would have officially been classed as ‘overcrowded’. But we were staying put. We needed a school place for our third too and so he slept in his cot next to us for almost three years. One local mother claiming benefits, couldn’t understand how we could voluntarily subject ourselves to such discomfort when she had just been upgraded to a three bedroom house with a spanking new kitchen, due to the imminent arrival of her third child.

My efforts paid off just as I’d anticipated. As well as academic excellence, the school provided a nurturing and disciplined environment, which helped shape my sons into studious and caring individuals.

Then a casual chat with a school’s governor duly exploded my bubble.

She told me that while my children were in the borough’s best primary school, there was a poor choice of state secondary schools for boys and if we were serious about our sons’ education we would need to think about moving them again.

Our eldest son was still only six and although getting them both into the primary were the biggest triumphs of my life, I couldn’t bear the idea of my boys languishing in a local sink secondary from the ages of 11 to 18. The governor warned that any parent worth her salt wouldn’t allow her child to step through the doors of one failing academy.

And so began our two year nationwide search for a location outside London with excellent secondary schools.

I found the perfect school in a remote Gloucestershire village and persuaded my husband to do the two and a half hour commute to and from work every day. It didn’t worry me one jot that the house we were about to buy had a flood history. “We’ll put up flood gates and raise electric sockets from floor level,’” I said hopefully. The building insurers were more pessimistic and turned us down flat.

We relocated instead to a county which boasts five top grammar schools. The village itself is busier than we would have liked and the house not our first choice of residence, but it’s the boys’ schooling that counts.

And so I gave up our hard-earned church school places, polished the last goblet and hung up the Priest’s cassocks for the last time. Parents who’d fought as hard as we had were astounded that I would do something so drastic. Of course the boys’ places were filled within minutes of me withdrawing them.

We moved all three of our children into the local pre-prep, where they are exceptionally happy and thriving. With 11-plus exams looming, and competition for the grammar schools fierce, I’ll soon be sharpening my elbows again.

Lisa Brinkworth has been a journalist for 25 years, specialising in undercover investigations until she became a mother. She specialised in exposing criminals and wrongdoers for the BBC’s Macintyre Undercover series, and is now writing a novel about her undercover exploits.

There is a further article exploiting her children’s education by this intrepid pushy middle England mother from The Times.   ‘I feel guilty that I am driving a social divide between my sons’ |


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