21st June 1967. Education for the Masses.
Since the war, a secondary school in Burton-on-Trent, Staffordshire, began life as a Technical High School, became Dovecliffe Grammar, then in 1974, as a comprehensive, was renamed Wulfric.
Next title was de Ferrers High School, then de Ferrers School of Technology, and currently is termed an Academy. Five miles away Repton Public School created 500 years ago is now…Repton Public School!
By the 1960s, in the new age of equality, selection at age 11, was under attack, parents were getting more vocal about the iniquities of the Tripartite System, where their children were floundering in Secondary Modern Schools, condemned as failures. Teaching methods were also perceived as too rigid.
It was a view now taken up by the national press, as in Today’s article in 1967 in The Daily Express, which reported: ‘Classroom Crisis, the Biggest Ever.'(1)
The article started: ‘Lack of money, lack of teaching, lack of university places-British education is reeling through under-nourishment.’
The article went on: ‘A Sussex University don told me, the teaching profession is so intellectually unadventurous, conservative and narrow-minded.’
This lecturer [don] had learned from an expert about ‘teaching machines’, of ‘talking typewriters’, which listened, never lost its temper, and was full of ‘well-done’.
Teachers it appears ‘put slides in upside down, kids didn’t, and teachers must change.’
Then in the 1960s, came the Plowden Report, which inaugurated child-centred, discovery-learning, in unstreamed, Primary Schools- an inefficient system- perpetuated by the new shiny, Secondary Comprehensive Schools, where the students were heading.
The fact of the matter education had lost its way in England, as the lodestone of the ’11 Plus’ exam was being abandoned, and the secondary school, localized curriculum now had to cater increasingly for all abilities and associated exams and a leaving age raised to 16.
The result was laissez-faire, falling standards, indiscipline, and general muddle: CHAOS!
By 1976 new Labour, PrimeMinister James Callaghan, was in a questioning mood: ‘Do you like me feel that we’ve been slipping? ‘
Then in a Ruskin speech later, saw him enthusing for the traditional approaches to education, and floating the idea of the Core Curriculum. Change was in the air.
Once the Tories came to power in 1979, the political profile of education, as the Author remembers, changed dramatically, which allied with the financial constraints of 1980s ‘Thatcherism’, saw more demanded for less; as Labour’s Tony Crosland’s said: ‘The Party’s Over’.
The Plowden ideal was seen as lax and extravagant and reinforced by employers’ complaints of poor basic skills. Then came the 1988 Education Reform Act, with its centralized National Curriculum, with regular inspections and iniquitous league tables-‘name and shame’.
Thus from Primary School teaching plans written on one side of A4, if you were lucky, by 1988, came the centralized issue of a dozen, 2 inches thick, meticulously graded syllabuses for every subject graded in levels. By analogy, a pendulum clock would shatter in pieces.
However politicians of all persuasions, aim for universal appeal, equality now became overt social engineering- ‘everyone’s a winner’- where progress was seen by the number passing ‘dummed-down’ exams on the road to filling the ever-increasing university places.
In September 2013 the National Curriculum was largely abandoned except for the Core subjects, in preparation for another change!
Plus ca change…!
(1) Ref: Article by Bruce Kemble.Wednesday 21,6,1967.
Ref: googleimages for picture.