Blair state school faces official probe into admissions policy

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The Independent Online

The London Oratory, alma mater of Euan and Nicky Blair, has been referred to the Government's schools adjudicator by a nearby primary school, which claims local kids are unfairly prevented from getting places there.

In a lengthy submission, Peterborough Primary School in Hammersmith says that the Oratory - a Roman Catholic day school - shouldn't be allowed to interview potential pupils to check their religious persuasion. This procedure, it claims, discriminates against working-class applicants who haven't been "coached".

The case will throw unwanted light on to the system that allowed the Blairs - who at the time lived in Islington - to get their children into a school on the other side of London during the 1990s.

In a bid to placate left-wingers, Blair agreed to send his offspring to a state school, but (like many affluent Londoners) refused to enroll them at the somewhat mediocre establishments in his area. Cherie's Catholicism meant they could attend the Oratory.

Although neither school would discuss the challenge yesterday, Hammersmith and Fulham Council said: "It's true that the school has been referred, but we are not commenting until we know what the adjudicator decides."

* The supermodel Lily Cole made headlines recently when it was claimed that she had refused to work for De Beers in protest against their mining practices.

Strange, then, to discover that the flame-haired beauty is travelling to Botswana with the diamond firm to see its operations for herself.

"Lily never said she wouldn't work for De Beers again," I'm told. "What she did say was that she was now 'aware' of controversy about their work. She's been lobbied by Survival International, the pressure group which campaigns against De Beers, but wants to make her own mind up about what's going on."

During her trip, Cole will conduct interviews with several Kalahari bushmen. Survival claims they've been evicted from ancestral homelands to make way for diamond mines; De Beers says any eviction is nothing to do with them.

Whatever Cole eventually decides, her trip is already the subject of bickering. Survival said yesterday: "If she's shepherded by De Beers, she won't discover anything."

* There's an intriguing subplot to yesterday Daily Mirror "scoop" in which Kate Moss was snapped (apparently) hoofing cocaine at a London recording studio.

Two months ago, Mirror Group Newspapers were ordered to pay substantial damages to Moss after claiming that the skinny beauty had lapsed into a coma during a cocaine binge in Barcelona.

This was the 'umble correction they ran back then: "The Sunday Mirror apologised in court this week to Kate Moss over untrue allegations, published in January, that she collapsed into a drug-induced coma in Barcelona in 2001 after taking vast quantities of cocaine. We have paid her substantial damages and costs for the distress and embarrassment caused."

Revenge, as they say, is best served cold.

* In Pandora's eyes, Dame Kelly Holmes has always been an oil painting. Now she's going to become one for the rest of the nation. The National Portrait Gallery is commissioning a portrait of the Olympian heroine, to be unveiled next year along with a mixed-media portrayal another medal-winner, Sir Steve Redgrave.

Sandy Nairn, the NPG's director, says mixed-media pieces are all the rage, following the recent success of Sam Taylor Wood's video portrait of David Beckham.

"We are on the verge of persuading Dame Kelly to pose for us," he said, at a party organised by Dom Perignon. "That's if we can get her to sit still for one minute. It's strange, but it can be very difficult to persuade people like her to sit. Doing a portrait can be a very combative experience."

* When Labour grandees go to war, people get hurt. So it's somewhat terrifying to hear of "handbags" between two of the biggest beasts in the Cabinet: John Reid and David Blunkett.

The duo - who both harbour leadership ambitions - are fighting it out to land the job of winding up the show on the last day of the Labour Party conference in Brighton.

Normally, the slot is given to John Prescott, who uses it to tell knockabout gags at the Tories' expense. But this year, Prezza will be representing the Prime Minister at an EU conference in Brussels.

"Reid and Blunkett are now fighting like cats in a bag to replace him," I'm told. "It's a crucial slot for would-be Labour leaders, because it allows them to sing the Red Flag on stage in front of delegates." Microphone off, I hope.

pandora@independent.co.uk

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