Residents Consulted over Religious Threat to Wyebridge Sports College

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

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.


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