War horse still in action!

I am gathering information at a rate of knots and it is now plainly obvious that what has been and is happening to Waltham Holy Cross is typical of what is and has been going on across the country.


Harris academy (which was formerly Downhills School) was forced to become an Academy six years ago, despite opposition from 94% of the parents. An Ofsted Inspection declared that the school was failing and the then Education Secretary, one Michael Gove, ordered the take over, because their “SATs results weren’t good enough.” Now it transpires that the Harris Academy which is in Philip Lane in Haringey, has been found to have “over-aided pupils in this year’s English reading and Maths reasoning SATs, according to the standards and testing agency.”  Or to put it more bluntly, they’ve been cheating. As a result, Year 6 pupil scores in these papers have been expunged and they will only receive scores for their spelling, punctuation and grammar tests. The Academy’s chair of governors, Susan Head, wrote a letter to the parents on Monday, describing the investigation findings as “deeply regrettable and disappointing” and said that “the school was ” determined to get to the bottom of what has happened.”  You don’t have to look far Susan!

Yesterday in the Guardian, Melissa Benn said “Our schools are broken. Only radical action will fix them… There is now widespread recognition of the drear reality, inadequate multi academy trusts, increasingly shut out of their children’s education, and executive heads creaming off excessive salaries.” 

And that of course is the reason why these academies have been allowed to take control of our schools by the political elite that now run our lives. Last year there were eight people in Ofsted who got paid over £135,000 per year (information via Paul Garvey). In education, as in everything else, we are being ripped off by the obscenely rich and greedy. High time we started organising to thwart them.

Waltham Holy Cross, have started the campaign and got off to a flying start. They had, what the organiser called, “a brilliant meeting.” It was, he said an opportunity to “gather all the letters/emails that all the other parents sent to all of the authorities.” Adding, “It’s unbelievable that they have not even had responses!”

Sadly, I have to say, the authorities lack of response to these letters is no surprise. They feel they may do and say whatever they want.

We must be sure we keep all information flowing between us, I will pass on whatever I hear, whenever I hear it and will publicise it in any way I know. We owe it to our kids. Strength to your campaigning arms!





This entry was posted on August 10, 2018. 1 Comment

I’m on my war horse part 2: Use me as a conduit

Since I put up my last blog ‘I’m on my war horse’, I have learnt several interesting things. The first is that the struggle that the staff and parents of Waltham Holy Cross School are putting up to try and avoid being made to leave the control of the local authority and be turned into an Academy – which they do NOT want – is by no means a one off.


Over 227 people visited that blog on the first day and some of them told me about other schools who are or who have been in a similar position. So I am writing part 2 of the blog as you see, so that people who haven’t seen part one yet can do so now and people who have something to say about what has been and is happening to them and their school, can send me the details. It is a little too easy for bullies to insist upon having their own way if they can claim that what is happening is only happening to ONE school. It is not and we need to tell one another as many details as we can collect.

So please use me as a conduit and let us see who else will take up the cudgels on our behalf. Thanks to Aditya Chakrabortty and the Guardian, the story is already out there and causing a stir, I’m very glad to say.

My war horse is pawing the ground and full of oats!

This entry was posted on August 2, 2018. 3 Comments

I’m on my war horse

Last week I reprinted a blog about how children learn, having been requested to do it, and got some very positive feed-back. Somebody even suggested that I should send it to our new Education Secretary, Damien Hinds. I thought that would be rather a waste of time because the man is part of the political elite and in touch with several wealthy private companies and, being committed to George Osborne’s orders, openly intends to take as many schools away from the control of the local authorities as he can and turn them into private Academies that are run for profit.

Since then, the world has moved on apace and an admirable journalist called Aditya Chakrabortty has written in yesterday’s Guardian about what is actually happening to one of our schools now. Is it an appalling story, so I’m going to pass it on here for those of you who haven’t seen it.

The school is a primary in Essex called Waltham Holy Cross and Mr Chakrabortty has visited it and ‘helped on a school run’. He says he found it ‘more than a school’. ‘This is a community,’ he writes and the children are happy there and enjoy learning. This month’s SAT results for Year 6 show a remarkable double-digit improvement in reading, writing and maths.  And yet, believe it or not, Ofsted inspectors, who visited the school just before Christmas have damned it as ‘inadequate’ and told the Head and the staff that it will therefore be handed over to a trust called Net Academies who will turn it into a ‘model school’. And there appears to be nothing they can do about it.

The Head took action at once and together with her governors, wrote to report that even before the inspection had begun, the lead inspector had told staff that ‘based on the previous year’s Sat results their school would be inadequate.’ In other words, as she pointed out, judgement had been made before the inspection even began. She also reported that when one of the inspectors was asked to move his car, which was blocking the school entrance, he not only refused to do any such thing but said ‘I’m Ofsted. I can park wherever I want.’ How’s that for arrogance? Back in the old days, Her Majesty’s School Inspectors, who were largely academics or ex head teachers or other long serving teachers would never have been so rude.

But they misjudged Waltham Holy Cross for this is plainly a very good school indeed. Back in March when they were told the news, the staff and the parents didn’t accept that the school was going to be handed over to an academy – in their case a group called Net Academies – and that there was nothing they could do about. They started a campaign, took legal advice and action, and were careful to do everything properly. All complaints, for example, were submitted via the correct complaints process. And they started by firing off Freedom of Information requests. One of them, a lady called Shaunagh Roberts (Respec’!), looked up Net Academies and as she says ‘Got a jolt’. Two of Net’s seven academies in Warwickshire and Reading have been ranked ‘inadequate’, a third ‘requires improvement’. According to the latest Education Policy Institute report, Net Academy Trust is the sixth worst primary school group in England. Its board is stuffed with City folk: PFI lawyers, management consultants, accountants, but apparently no working teachers. It has dropped three of its schools but its aim is to run 20 to 25 institutions. There’s money in academies.

They also uncovered a smelly little bit of corruption.

When the school got its Ofsted report, the local authority told the Head ‘that Clare Kershaw, the Authority’s Director of Education, would want us only to go with Net Academies.’ And Clare Kershaw was also  – wait for it! – a trustee with the charity New Education Trust, out of which came the Net Academies. Both the Council and the government have assured Mr Chakrabortty that the two were separate entities and that her interest had been properly declared. Net denies any conflict of interest. Yet the charity’s last set of accounts describes the academies as ‘a connected charity’ and Clare Kershaw appears on an official document for the academy trust. Humm!

I have sent a twitter message to Waltham Holy Cross School offering to help them in any way I can and telling them about this blog. And now I’m feeding and watering my war horse.


This entry was posted on July 31, 2018. 8 Comments

Happy the bride – or not as the case may be.

I’m posting this on the 68th Anniversary of my wedding – and no, I can’t believe it either! But I’m posting with a purpose. There are so many wonderful wedding photographs put up on social media, the brides looking so beautiful, in gorgeous dresses with masses of flowers and an attentive bride-groom beaming love at them. All just as it should be and it warms the heart to see them.

But not all weddings are so beautiful, so blessed, or so surrounded by good wishes. So this blog is for the brides who keep quiet and don’t put pictures of their weddings on display because they are rather ashamed of them. I know how it feels because I was just such a one. And here are Roy and I standing in the garden of the house where I grew up and hour or so after we got married and every picture tells a story.


This story is not quite what you might think. Let me interpret the body language of my new husband. I’ve seen that stance and expression many times over the course of the years and I know what he was thinking, I used to call it his ‘sod yer face’ and on this particular morning he was saying ‘sod yer, I’ve married her and there’s nothing you can do about it!’ I was just wishing that the day could be over and that I was anywhere but there.

We often told one another in the years that followed that at least we had our worst day right at the beginning and the only way to go from there was up. So I’ve put another picture to show you the two of us very happily together with our new son a few years later. There was after all something to be said for starting badly.


But maybe I should tell you the story.

For a start and central to all this is the fact that my mother had decided when I was still in the cradle that I was born evil, that I would never amount to anything and that nobody would love me, because I was too horrible. Looking back on it, it all sounds a little unlikely now, but that is what she felt. So when I returned home after registering my intention to marry Roy at the local registry office, she greeted the news with horror saying ‘No you’re not!’ and refused categorically to let my father sign the consent form which the registry office had given me. I was 19 and therefore needed my parents consent.

Luckily I’d thought this one out on my way home, so I knew what to say to her. It was quite simple.  ‘If you won’t sign the form, I won’t eat anything until you do.’ She was suffused with fury and said ‘No you wont. Don’t be so silly.  You couldn’t do it.’ But I was quite sure that I could and I did, sticking close to her all the time for the next six days, so that she could see that although I drank water, I wasn’t eating anything. By the end of the sixth day, I was visibly losing weight – I also had fearful pains in my stomach but I didn’t let on about that – and that night, she and my father had a long, growling conversation after I’d gone to bed. The next morning, the form was signed and lay beside my plate.

The wedding day was just under a week later, I was still finding it painful to eat and she had found a way to get in a last moment of hatred while we were signing the register.

‘It wont last,’ she said to our handful of guests in a loud voice. ‘I give it six months.’

This time, I didn’t say anything but I made up my mind that it would last a lifetime. And it did. Things could only get better.


This entry was posted on July 29, 2018. 3 Comments

Why can’t we let our kids learn?

I’m reissuing this one by request because sadly it’s a relevant now as it was when it was written. Our children are still being pushed to pasdamian1s exams, instead of being allowed to learn. And now we have a new Education Secretary called Damian Hinds, who seems to have noticed that ‘schools need less stress’ and is going to send teachers a ‘tool kit’ to help them cope with it. Tell you what Damian, just get rid of all those tests and examinations and you would be surprised at what would happen in our schools.

I can’t in all honesty say that I expect anyone deeply entrenched in the philosophy that the more examinations children can be required to take, the more they will learn to take much notice of what I have to say about the natural learning process. On the other hand there is a Labour politician called Angela Rayner and what she is saying gives me hope, so this is more for her than for Damian.



This one is by special request, because so many of my friends think that what is being done to our children in the name of education is damaging, senseless and often downright cruel  and I keep saying it isn’t necessary. So now I feel I must give you chapter and verse.

We’ve known all about it since the early years of the twentieth century when the first 
educational pioneers, like  Susan Isaacs and Maria Montessori discovered that learning is a natural and pleasurable process. And if we ever need proof of the truth of what they were saying, we only have to look at any young creature playing. Kittens may look cute but what they are actually doing is learning how to catch their prey, apes romp in the trees learning to maintain their balance and enjoying every minute of it, human children play all manner of games and enjoy them hugely. What they are doing, without knowing it, is using this natural learning process. It’s what all children do when tests and Ofsted inspections and league tables don’t get in their way. So how does it work?

It always starts with curiosity, which is natural and in-built.

If and when the child follows his curiosity, he starts a whole series of activities in which he learns what he wants to know, by trial and error. Mistakes are part of the process and not at all frightening. You learn from them.

And when you have mastered the skill and found out what you wanted and needed to know, you move on to stage three, which is a state of rapturous happiness. Just watch a baby when it’s learnt to feed itself.

When the skill is mastered and/or the knowledge absorbed, and the child has been making use of it for some time, he puts it to one side and seems to forget it. But there is a fifth stage. After an interval no matter how short or long, the child returns to the skill and hasn’t forgotten any of it, it’s part of his character now, once learnt never forgotten, like riding a bicycle.

So why on earth don’t most teachers simply make use of this process, sparking interest whenever they can, providing the materials so that child can satisfy his curiosity and enjoying the whole thing with the children? One sad reason is, that few of them now are taught about the process. All the information about it was removed from the PGCE syllabuses a very long time ago, to the disappointment of the great educationalists of our much maligned sixties, like Leila Berg and Mike Duane of Risinghill fame and the great AS Neill who ran Summerhill school.

But there is another factor which has to be considered today. Parents and teachers and children are all told by our politicians that they have to be tested to show that they are learning, some of the fiercer ones are even talking about bringing back the cane, god help us all. And of course what they’re saying simply is not true.

The real reason we keep imposing tests, exams, Ofsted inspections and league
tables is that the big “educational” companies make money out of it, it’s an extremely lucrative business and the more exams they can persuade our idiot politicians to impose on our children, the more the companies can earn.

We are in thrall to greed.






This entry was posted on July 26, 2018. 4 Comments

I have learnt a useful new word

And it’s a word that perfectly describes Donald Trump. I found it in a Tweet written by John Cleese who described America’s uncouth President as ‘vulgar, inflated, vain, boastful, noisily ignorant, sleezy and common as muck’. Spot on John! And then went on to analyse what is the matter with him, describing him as “Pronoid”.

It’s a real word. I looked it up! And I’d like to see it used more often. For as John Cleese wrote: ‘Pronoid is the opposite of paranoid. A paranoid person thinks, without any basis in reality, that everyone is out to get them. A pronoid person is someone who thinks, without any basis in reality, that everybody likes them.’

I think that by now most of us have got heartily sick of hearing Trump describe his great talents. He is good at everything, he’s got brains, he knows everything, he’s got property everywhere. ‘I love Scotland, I’ve got property there.’ Everybody loves him. But he went further in rudeness and uncouth behaviour than any of us have seen him do before, when he met the Queen of England, when, as we all saw from the pictures, he arrived late to his meeting with her and then totally ignored her, stepping in front of her as though she were not there. Uncouth arrogance like that, simply takes your breath away. As somebody else said on Twitter  ‘Have you seen these pictures! Imagine somebody doing that to one of our early Monarchs. He’d have had his head chopped off.’


It would be bad enough if he were an oddity but there are arrogant, ‘pronoid’ people in all sorts of places. Some of them like Boris Johnson, Jeremy HuntJH and Nigel Farage, cloak their appalling arrogance by clowning and sadly, many people think that’s funny and therefore don’t take them too seriously.

Max Hastings who is a friend of Boris Johnsons (Eton, Oxford, Bullingdon club) has this to say about his friend. ‘It is a common mistake to suppose Johnson a nice man… He is a man of remarkable gifts, flawed by an absence of conscience, principle or scruple.’ And this is the man who is inching up to take the premiership from Theresa May.

And Nigel Farage, the darling of the television companies who is so good at posing with a pint of beer in his hand, as a man of the people, is no such thing. According to reports from Transparency International, he has earned between £524,000 and £700,000 from TV and radio interviews in the last four years.

“Giving power and money to the government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.” 

-P.J. O’Rourke

And never forget. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. So that brings us back to Trump again!

What a world we live in. I’ve written about four hideous examples of a pronoid personality, but they are legion, and the ambitious, pronoid men behind the posed public faces are dangerous. We’ve seen enough of them in our lifetime to know that. Think Hitler, Mussolini, Franco, Mugabe etc, etc.


This entry was posted on July 18, 2018. 3 Comments

Thank you for all your messages


Since BBC news broadcast my tribute to the National Health Service, I’ve received emails, messages on Facebook and Twitter from all over the place and from too many people for me to be able to thank you all.

So this is by way of thanks, it was lovely to hear from you and to know that you approved of what I had to say.

And if you missed it, as I did! The producer sent me a link. Wasn’t that kind of her?

So here it is, in case you missed it too:



This entry was posted on July 12, 2018. 3 Comments