Archive for July, 2007

Press Release 27th July 2007

July 27, 2007

On Tuesday, our open evening on the consequences of Church takeover of Wyebridge Sports College was well attended, with extra chairs needing to be put out.

There will be a further meeting, designed to inform people who wish to know more, on 6th August at the Game Cock on Holme Lacy Road, at 7:45 for 8pm.

The poll of whether people in South Wye want the college to be taken over will now close at Midnight Sunday 12th August to allow people to attend this meeting before making up their minds. The poll question is:

The Department for Education and Skills is working to give the school to the Church of England to open as a Church Academy. Accountability would then be to the Church of England rather than to the local authority or to parents.

Do you…
(A) Agree with this, and want it run on ‘Christian Values’ and for ‘the extension of the Kingdom of God’.
(B) Don’t care.
(C) Want the school to remain accountable, and be run for the benefit of pupils, whatever
their beliefs, without religious interference.

It is your local secondary school, please tell us what you want.

Text your name and your reply to 07890-319675
Or email Secretary@MarchesSecularists.org

Or write to us at
The Roundhouse, Kinsley Road, Knighton, LD7 1DY

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Residents Consulted over Religious Threat to Wyebridge Sports College

July 27, 2007

Hereford residents who live in the catchment area of Wyebridge Sports College are being consulted by Marches Secularists. They want to hear from anyone who cares whether the school (formerly Haywood High School) is taken over by the Church as part of the Church’s current expansion scheme to control 100 more state secondary schools.

The Church of England control over a fifth of all tax-payer funded schools. They already run one of Hereford’s secondary schools; another is run by the Catholic Church. If the Church succeeds in taking over another, only two of the five will remain non-biased community schools.

At present, Wyebridge Sports College is run by, and accountable to, the Local Authority and to parents. There are 4 governors appointed by the authority, and 7 governors elected by parents. There are also staff governors elected by the staff. This would change under academy status. C of E Academies have a majority of governors appointed by the Church, with a requirement for only 1 token governor each to represent the local authority and parents.

Academies are not bound by the 1944 Education Act, or any of the subsequent Education Acts, as they are not classed as state schools, despite being paid for by the tax payer. The body of law that protects the rights of children and parents does not apply to academies. As a result, C of E academies are not accountable to anyone but themselves. The school would be controlled by religious interests alone.

Ofsted say that the existing college “is providing a sound quality of education and is improving thanks to good leadership at every level. The key reason for improvements in the behaviour, attendance and attainment of students can be traced to a new and common team spirit amongst staff, modelled well by the leadership team and driven by good head teacher leadership”.

The inspector’s notes state “We were particularly struck by the consistent message you all gave about how much better the school is now, compared to a couple of years ago. We agree and think that the school is doing a sound job in giving you a secure education that will serve you well in the future.”

The school achieved specialist status last year, and is part of Herefordshire Excellence Cluster.

So why change it? Other schools that have been taken over have unfairly been branded as ‘failing’ as an excuse for the takeover, and the academies that have replaced the schools have often produced worse results than the school they replaced.

Handing over more state funded schools to religious control is unpopular with the general public. Every even-handed poll to date has demonstrated this. To find out whether the same is true in Hereford, Marches Secularists are running the following poll for the people of South Hereford. Entries must be in by midnight on Sunday, August 12th.

The Department for Education and Skills (Department for Children, Schools and Families) is working to give the school to the Church of England to open as a Church Academy. Accountability would then be to the Church of England rather than to the local authority or to parents.

Do you…
(A) Agree with this, and want it run on ‘Christian Values’ and for ‘the extension of the Kingdom of God’.
(B) Don’t care.
(C) Want the school to remain accountable, and be run for the benefit of pupils, whatever
their beliefs, without religious interference.

It is your local secondary school, please tell us what you want.

Text your name and your reply to 07890-319675
Or email Secretary@MarchesSecularists.org

Or write to us at:
Marches Secularists, The Roundhouse, Kinsley Road, Knighton, LD7 1DY

This consultation is remarkably fair as it uses the Church’s phrases in option A and the secularist wording for option C. This is in stark contrast to the survey put out by those in favour of an academy in Merton where the options they put forward were unfair:

“Yes, I am in favour of raising standards at [the schools] by getting academy status” and “No, I am against these changes to [the schools] designed to improve examination results”. The public need to be wary of pro academy polls that use deliberately misleading wording.

So, do academies produce better results than the schools they replace? The West London Academy produced worse GCSE results than its predecessor, despite the academy excluding a huge number of its worst pupils. Ofsted said, after the academy’s first inspection “the visit has raised serious concerns about the standard of education provided by the academy”. Ofsted’s second report said that achievement standards were ‘inadequate’. In the 2004 GCSE results, 11 academies were listed. Five showed no improvement and one had the second worst results in England. In the 2005 league tables for 14 year olds, nine of the eleven academies were in the bottom 200 schools in England. It is a myth that academies naturally do better than the schools they replace. At least one academy has failed its Ofsted inspection altogether and was in special measures. In 2006 half of the academies were named among the worst-performing schools in England based on GCSE results. The number of pupils gaining 5 GCSE s at A* to C (including Maths and English) in C of E Academies is less than half the number achieved by pupils in normal schools.

July Meeting

July 20, 2007

The July meeting of the Marches Secularists will be held on the evening of Tuesday, July 24th at the Game Cock Inn, Holme Lacy Road, Hereford. It will start at 7.45pm; please do come along.

Hereford School to become a Religious Academy

July 17, 2007

Wyebridge Sports College (formerly Haywood High School) is to be handed over to religious control if the government gets it way. The proposed academy is in the last phase of approval.
State schools and normal Church of England schools are accountable to parents and the local authority. If allowed to go ahead, the Academy will no longer be accountable to local people. The Church will appoint more than 50% of both the Academy’s Trust and Governing Body. While most local clergy are moderate people, they are declining in number; eventually they will be replaced by the growing, but less savoury American style evangelicals. By the time this happens, it will be too late, the Academy will be firmly in their grip.

Even the existing liberal wing of Christians see this as a device to indoctrinate. Hereford Church of England Diocese say “We expect the health specialism to be developed so that it can include the dimensions of social, community and spiritual health”.
Their document tells us “The church centrally believes this is a major way it can support the extension of the Kingdom of God”.

A mysterious donor has produced £1.5 million for the Church so that it can qualify to run the academy (the tax payer will foot the bill for both the capital costs and running costs). Where has this secret £1.5m come from? Is it tax payer’s money from an illegal government slush fund? Or is it from an American right wing evangelical organisation that believes in Creationism? Or is it ill-gotten money? Why do you think the donor does not want to be found out? When it comes to a state funded school, we think that there should be no hidden agenda; the public have a right to know who is behind it.

If you believe that schooling should be about education rather than religious indoctrination, and care about the thousands of children that will be sent there, join our campaign to stop this school being handed over. A campaign by local people prevented another state school from being taken over in Leicestershire, and a strong campaign is working in Oxford. Let’s unite to keep religious indoctrination out of our local schools.

Marches Secularists get a new website

July 17, 2007

Welcome to the Marches Secularists’ new website. This is the news page, where you’ll find frequent news releases and updates on our activities. To find out more about us, click on the About Us link in the menu on the right of the page. To contact us, click on Contacts.