‘Government and education do not mix’ - Headmaster condemns meddling politicians at Wisbech Grammar School speech day

GOVERNMENT and education do not mix and politicians have plunged schools into uncertainty with needless reforms.

That is the damning verdict of Wisbech Grammar School headmaster Nicholas Hammond, who today launched a scathing attack on Governments who meddle with the education system.

Giving his annual speech day address at the school’s prize-giving ceremony, Mr Hammond said: “Government and education do not mix well. I’m beginning to think that they don’t mix at all.”

Mr Hammond said the latest education reforms had created an atmosphere of instability in schools and claimed that Government interference in education began with the administration of Prime Minister Jim Callaghan.

He said: “In 1976 he (Callaghan) gave the now infamous ‘Secret garden of the curriculum’ speech, which opened the doors to successive generations of politicians to meddle with what made them, but what they did not understand.”

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Mr Hammond did praise one “shining exception” in the long list of education secretaries. He said Estelle Morris, who took up the post in 2001 but resigned in 2002, had shown “a genuine pride in education, rather than her own career.”

The country had been given a new exam system, he said, which had been described as rejuvenated and academically rigorous but which was, in reality, still deeply flawed.

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“As this summer’s marking fiasco in part demonstrated, we have exams which are being marked harder, but with no greater degree of accuracy,” said Mr Hammond.

“In the course of this exam season and the subsequent appeals season, we have seen some of our students improve grades by two or three letter grades.

“This is good in some regards, but surely a searing indictment of a flawed system administered by the self-interested and operated by, in some cases, the barely qualified and questionably competent.

“We need our exams to be freed from commercial concerns and we need fewer of them.”

Mr Hammond said the grammar school had focused on the three ‘Es’ that education should be all about - “exciting, enriching and ennobling”.

He said the prize-winning A-level leavers had “negotiated a demanding schedule of public exams” and they had shown themselves worthy of the grades achieved.

The prizes were presented by the guest of honour, Professor Michael Thorne, vice chancellor of Anglia Ruskin University.

Mr Hammond added that the school’s plans for the future included the building of a new refectory and the construction of a new library – and planning permission has been received for both projects.

Full list of prizes

The Rex Carkeek Prize for Mathematics for the Best Performance by a Third Former: Laura Harriman

The Penny Carkeek Prize for Textiles for the Best Performance by a Third Former: Charlotte Tunnard

The Alan D Salmon MBE FCA Memorial Prize for Endeavour (Senior School): Elizabeth Grearson

The Neil Russell Memorial Prize for the Best Scholar in the Fifth Form: Michael Tigchelaar

The Governors’ Prize: Jessica Tolliday

The Guy Pearson Memorial Prize for Art: Lucy Elderfield

The Prize for Art & Design: Textiles: Alice Meekins

The Prize for Biology: Joshua York

The Prize for Business Studies: Emily Bell

The Salters’ Institute Prize for Chemistry: Georgina Hay

The Prize for Community Service: James Harriman

The Prize for Design & Technology: Benjamin Retchless

The Prize for Dramatic Performance: Joshua York

The Prize for Technical Support in Drama: Susanna Lemon

The Prize for Economics: Kara-Jayne Thorpe

The Prize for English: Hannah Gedge

The Prize for Geography: Polly Rosier

The Prize for German: James Harriman

The Prize for Graphics: Charlotte Nichols

The Skinner Prize for History: Joshua York

The Prize for Home Economics: Food Science: Chelsie Golding

The Poyser Memorial Prize for Mathematics: Georgina Hay

The Dorothy Hartley Prize for Modern Languages: Harriet Brown

The Arthur & Dorothy Kolbert Prize for Musical Performance: Melody Cheung

The Prize for Physical Education: Chelsie Golding

The Kenneth Neale Memorial Prize for Physics: Georgina Hay

The Stationers’ Prize for Printing: Hannah Booth

The Prize for Spanish: James Harriman

The Cyril Saunders Memorial Trophy for Sport: Polly Rosier

The Kathleen Crowden Memorial Prizes (outstanding service to the school): Katie Glover-Leach, Fiona Massen, Joshua Timms, Georgina Wearing.

The Lawrence White Prizes (all-round endeavour): Susanna Lemon, Madeleine Boulton, Samuel Golding.

The Anniss Memorial Prizes (for achievement): Alice Wong, Benjamin Retchless.

The Magdalene College Prizes (academic excellence) Hannah Booth, Georgina Hay

The Heather Repper Memorial Prize for the Best Scholar in the Sixth Form: Alice Meekins

The Head Girl’s Prize: Alice Wong

The Head Boy’s Prize: Joshua York

Form Prizes

First Form: Eden Cooper, Anna Kober, Cassia Lemon, Alexander Florance, Henry Lankfer, Georgia White.

Second Form: Kimberley Calleja, Alexander Clabon, Jack Hurst, Abigail Charles, Tyler Goates, Elliot Young.

Third Form: Jasmine Clench, Kyle Sheehan-McLean, Hettie West, Laura Harriman, Joanna Slipper, Dominic Young.

Fourth Form: Charley Brown, Olivia O’Connor, Andrew Turner, Harry Brown, Patrick Rusman, Theodore Wanstall, Anas Khan, Isobel Russell, Lucy Williams, Andrew Lee, Selina Tsang, Elisha Young.

Fifth Form: Fergus Brown, Chloe Short, Helena Coe, Edward Slipper, Mignonne Gunasekara, Annabelle Tibbett, Zara Plumb, Holly Young.

Lower Sixth: Claudia Barrasso, Jonathan Ison, Lawrence Everett, Dipak Karavadara, Tamsin Grundy, Sam-Henry Pressling, Callum Gurbutt, John Redwood, Jack Hutson, Jamie Sheldrick.

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