‘They have achieved Mission Impossible’ - Head praises students at Wisbech Grammar School speech day

GRAMMAR school head Nicholas Hammond poked gentle fun at Education Secretary Michael Gove on Friday inviting comparisons with Einstein.

“Schools should be in the business of firing young minds rather than force-feeding them with facts,” Mr Hammond told Wisbech Grammar School’s annual speech day.

“The father of modern physics, Albert Einstein, had argued that imagination was more important than knowledge, but the Education Secretary had demanded a core curriculum content of facts.

“One of them is a genius who changed the course of the world. The other is Michael Gove.”

Mr Hammond, head of the �10,950 fee-paying school, argued that it would be better for Mr Gove and his colleagues to spend more time in schools and find out what made them tick rather than using statistics alone to define what made a good school.

Mr Hammond said: “We remain committed to the education of minds, not simply the training of people who go on to succeed in examinations.

“We continue to teach traditional academic subjects such as single sciences and separate humanities and it is good to see that the educational world is coming back round to our way of thinking.”

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He said students were faced “with a seemingly never-ending treadmill of exams, the setting and marking of which should be subject to much-needed scrutiny.

“They rely on a society which seems keener to vilify than to praise and they face an impossible task, far harder than the educational challenges that I was presented with at their age.”

Mr Hammond added that the students had weathered yet more initiatives imposed by well-meaning but ill-informed politicians and he was reminded of Simon Jenkins’s comment on the Blair reforms of education: “those who can do; those who can’t teach, those who can’t teach reorganise.”

He looked forward to seeing the new reforms to GCSE and A-Level examinations that had recently been announced and he hoped that these would lead to teachers being allowed to teach what was necessary and appropriate.

“The challenge faced by upper sixth form students can be compared to the feat of licking their own elbows.

“This is a fantastic physical metaphor for the current challenge posed by our educational system.

“Our sixth formers have faced something akin to ‘Mission: Impossible’. What is remarkable is that these young people have not only accepted the task, but have succeeded in it. They have climbed Mount Impossible and deserve to enjoy the view.”

The guest of honour for the speech day was the Bishop of Ely, the Rev Stephen Conway. He told students: “You should aim to be a mixed age community where people pull together in mutual friendship and responsibility.”

SPECIAL PRIZES FOR SPEECH DAY 2011

The Prize for Drama & Theatre Studies: Eleanor Overvoorde

The Balding Prize for French: Sophie Prentis

The Kenneth Neale Memorial Prize for Physics: Matthew Evans

The Senior Prize for Biology: Christopher Clements

The Prize for Geography: Eleanor Overvoorde

The Prize for Home Economics: Food Science: William Tysterman

The Prize for Art & Design: Textiles: Saskia Cooper

The Guy Pearson Memorial Prize for Art: Sammy-Jo Tawn

The Prize for Physical Education: Sarah O’Hare

The Cyril Saunders Memorial Trophies for Sport: Lisa Williamson, Alistair Price

The Prize for Graphics: Sammy-Jo Tawn

The Prize for Business Studies: Victoria Turner

The Prize for Economics: Dominic Rusman

The Skinner Prize for History: Connor Rand

The Salters’ Institute Prize for Chemistry: Dominic Rusman

The Dorothy Hartley Prize for Modern Languages: Eleanor Mole

The Prize for Music & Music Technology: Matthew Ekins

The Stationers’ Prize for Printing: Emma Barker

The Prize for Spanish: Catherine Horne

The Prize for German: Katharine Treasure

The Prize for English: Emily Addington

The Poyser Memorial Prize for Mathematics: Timothy Harrington

The Prize for Design & Technology: Jack Hastings

The Arthur & Dorothy Kolbert Prize for Musical Performance: Eleanor Mole

The Prize for Dramatic Performance: Kieran Golding

The Prize for Technical Support in Drama: Ryan Calleja

The Anniss Memorial Prizes: Vincent Tsoi, Bharthi Keshwara, Rachel Coleman, Adam Al-Taher

The Lawrence White Prizes (all round endeavour): Matthew Evans, Oliver Ison, Kieran Golding

The Kathleen Crowden Memorial Prizes (outstanding service to the school): Emily Holt, Catherine Horne, Connor Rand

The Magdalene Prizes (academic excellence): Christopher Clements, Saskia Cooper, Charlotte Hay

The Alan D Salmon MBE FCA Memorial Prize for Endeavour (Senior School): Tara Canning

The Prize for Community Service: Amy Seaton

The Rex Carkeek Prize for Mathematics for the Best Performance by a Third Former: Georgia Spencer

The Penny Carkeek Prize for Textiles for the Best Performance by a Third Former: Nicole Almond

The Neil Russell Memorial Prize for the Best Scholar in the Fifth Form: Matthew Coleman

The Heather Repper Memorial Prize for the Best Scholar in the Sixth Form: Dominic Rusman

The Head Boy’s Prize: Timothy Harrington

The Head Girl’s Prize: Sarah O’Hare

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