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Chief set for plant life

A MAN who has dedicated his life to nurturing young minds is now all set to nurture plants in his garden.

Hugh Knight stepped down as Cardiff's chief education officer last week at the age of 63.

And he has decided to exchange running the city's schools for growing his own food and cooking it.

"I am serious about food," he said. "I am looking forward to not just growing vegetables but perhaps keeping chickens as well.

"This may well mean moving on to a smallholding of some sort."

Mr Knight and his wife Diana live at Penarth. Mrs Knight is a specialist literacy teacher and the couple have three grown-up children. One thing they are agreed on, however, is that they will not be moving from Wales.

Mr Knight comes originally from Bristol and became a teacher straight from university, spending 15 years teaching English in tough schools in London.

But in 1985 he became a London education authority adviser. "I did not find the role of head attractive but I had a big interest in the curriculum," he said.

Schools' freedom to decide what they taught disappeared with the introduction of the national curriculum, though. "From 1988 onwards, my work was about supporting schools to deal with all these changes," he said.

Mr Knight spent eight years on Tyneside before moving to South Glamorgan in 1994 and taking over as CEO in Cardiff in 1999, as devolution sent Wales down an educationally different path.

Mr Knight supports the scrapping of national tests and the abolition of school performance tables.

"Schools in Wales do not compete with each other so they have a sense of working together in the best interests of pupils," he said.

Exam results in Cardiff have improved but the city faces many challenges, including rising demand for Welsh-medium education and falling rolls.

"Schools have changed dramatically. Many more children are doing much better and structured work than before," he said.

"We are also getting high-quality entrants into teaching thanks to better pay and recent reforms."

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