Forest of Dean & Wye Valley


In R.Richardson on July 7, 2014 at 9:09 pm

by Ruth Richardson

In our last issue we reported that the Forest Academy in Cinderford would be seeking a new sponsor, as the chain which ran it (E-Act) had been required to shed about a third of its schools following poor Ofsted reports.

Now, two months later, comes the news that Lydney’s Dean Academy’s sponsor is to be replaced. Incidentally, when academy status at Whitecross School (as it was then called) was first proposed in 2012  many parents were against it, claiming that consultation had been inadequate.

The sponsor,  Prospects Academic Trust, is to shed six schools in all. In spite of reassurances from the school head that “this change will not impact (sic) on the quality of education that we are providing”, parents are gravely concerned.  One parent commented, “the whole thing seems to have been a colossal waste of energy, money and resources – and all the school has to show for it are some expensive new railings.”

Other parents are worried that the timing of the announcement will adversely affect  children who are about to take all- important exams.


A letter from John Belcher in The Forester points out that the failure of two academy chain providers in a short space of time sets a worrying precedent for other local schools. He also points out that Michael Gove’s qualifications for being Education Minister are that he went to school, attended university and is a right-wing politician. He has no teaching qualification.


Michael Gove, of course, has a penchant for new directives that cause controversy. One of the latest is that exam boards should no longer include American classics such as To Kill a Mocking Bird  in the syllabus.  Instead, pupils need to study British writer such as Dickens or Austen – and of course Shakespeare. A spokesman for the National Association for the Teaching of English said that “Many teenagers will think that being made to read Dickens at 16 is just tedious.”


Another innovation from Gove was the promotion of “free schools”. These could be set up by any group who could provide a viable education plan; and such a group would be eligible for state funding.

Now apparently, a confidential document has been prepared which proposes that such free schools should be monitored. Those that are struggling will be given “special fast-track attention” ahead of damaging Ofsted reports.

The document warns that “the political ramifications of any more free schools being judged inadequate are very high and speedy intervention is essential.” Already, out of 38 free schools Ofsted rated that almost a third required improvement or were judged inadequate.


Over recent years there have been a number of depressing reports on how badly our teenagers perform compared with those from other countries. But an article in The Observer was quite enlightening.

The test that is frequently used is the “Programme for International Student Assessment” (PISA) in reading, maths and science. The figures for Shanghai students topped the tables, whilst the UK ranked 26th.

However, Shanghai is the most affluent part of China with a per capita GDP more than double the national average. Moreover, nearly half of Shanghai’s children belong to migrant families and were barred from taking the test.

Although students from 12 provinces took the test, the Government chose only to share Shanghai’s scores. Many Chinese educationalists feel that teaching in the country is far from ideal. There is “a heavy emphasis on rote memorisation… great for test-taking but not for problem-solving and leadership skills.”

So perhaps our teenagers aren’t doing so badly after all.


A change in the route to becoming a qualified teacher has crept up on most of us unawares.  PGCE courses and B.Ed degrees are fast disappearing.  Instead teachers are increasingly trained “on the job”.

Schemes such as “School Direct” and “Teach First” place graduates in schools and provide support and some out-of-classroom learning for them. There are financial benefits for participating schools and for the students themselves. But are parents not entitled to believe that their child’s education is in the hands of a fully qualified teacher?


  1. So much of what is written here is so tragically true it is beyond belief almost , I say almost because then there is Gove. Now political differences should never become personal should they? we all have our ideology and allowing personality clashes will lead us down a path we should not travel >But in my humble opinion there has been no one to come close to being th epitome all everything that is hateful in a Tory tha Gove. A throw back to Tebbit and the gang. Not unqualified but certainly unworthy of being anywhere near our children’s education. oh and a face that could do with a wet mullet slap ala Monty Python as well.

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