FORUM
ISSN 0963-8253


Other issues available | Journal home page | Publisher home page

Volume 49 Numbers 1 & 2 2007

Archive

CONTENTS [click on author's name for abstract and full text]

 

SPECIAL DOUBLE ISSUE
Plowden plus 40
Guest Editor: DEREK GILLARD

Editorial, 3
Derek Gillard
. Presaging Plowden: an introduction to the Hadow Reports, 7
Peter Cunningham. Plowden in History: popular and professional memory, 21
Paul Warwick. Echoes of Plowden? Opportunities and Pressures Evident in Teachers’ Experience of Autonomy and Accountability in One School Community, 33
Brian Melling. Plowden and Me: a personal memoir, 39
Philip Gammage. None So Blind: early childhood education and care – the connective tissue, 47
Mike Brogden. Plowden and Primary School Buildings: a story of innovation without change, 55
Alicia James. Adult Concepts of Childhood: did Plowden make a difference?, 67
Trevor Kerry. Integration: dirty word or golden key?, 77
Michael Armstrong. ‘Impassioned Experience’: notes on the art work of three young children in an American elementary school, 93
Mike Aylen. From Teacher Aides to Teaching Assistants: how Plowden promoted parental participation in our primary schools, 107
Leslie Carrick. Then and Now: foreign language teaching in schools from Plowden to the present, 115
Elizabeth Wood. Reconceptualising Child-Centred Education: contemporary directions in policy, theory and practice in early childhood, 119
Michael Tidd. Whatever Happened to Plowden’s Middle Schools?, 135
George Smith, Teresa Smith & Tom Smith. Whatever Happened to EPAs? Part 2: Educational Priority Areas – 40 years on, 141
Maurice Galton. New Labour and Education: an evidence-based analysis, 157
Diane Hofkins. Twenty Years at the TES – and not a word about phonics, 179
Robin Alexander. Where There is No Vision ..., 187


 

Editorial

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.3

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

In August 1963 the UK’s Minister of Education, Sir Edward Boyle, asked the Central Advisory Council for Education (England) ‘to consider primary education in all its aspects and the transition to secondary education’ (Central Advisory Council for Education, 1967, p. iii). The Council, chaired by Bridget Plowden, presented its report to Anthony Crosland, Secretary of State for Education and Science, in October 1966, and the Plowden Report Children and their Primary Schools was published, 40 years ago this year, in 1967. A similar report was produced for Wales.

‘At the heart of the educational process lies the child’. That much-quoted opening sentence from chapter 2 set the tone of the report. Child-centredness and learning by discovery were the two key messages which most people took from Plowden. Many regarded them as radical new ideas. Some viewed them as dangerously subversive.

Yet, as Bridget Plowden herself wrote (in 1987), ‘we did not invent anything new’ (p. 120). The report certainly ‘endorsed the trend towards individual and active learning’ and ‘learning by acquaintance’ and hoped that many more schools would be influenced by it. Yet it also warned ‘we certainly do not deny the value of learning ‘by description’ or the need for the practice of skills and consolidation of knowledge’ (p. 120).

Hadow had promoted these ideas 30 years earlier, but they go back much further than that. Indeed, as Aubrey Nunes (n.d.) points out, ‘the idea of learning by doing is a good one. It has a long and ancient history’. He traces it back to Socrates, Plato and Aristotle, and argues that it resurfaced in the Renaissance in The Scholemaster by Elizabeth I’s teacher, Roger Ascham (1515‑1568).

But this long and honourable ancestry didn’t prevent the backlash against Plowden. In the years after its publication it was blamed for just about everything from an infant’s poor spelling to national economic failure, and its message about the centrality of the child in the educational enterprise was misrepresented by traditionalists and ignored by politicians. The ‘Black Papers’ were followed by Jim Callaghan’s Ruskin speech and the ‘Great Debate’. Then, from 1979, Margaret Thatcher’s administrations set about creating a ‘schools crisis’ in preparation for their ruthless marketisation of education.

A leader in the Times Educational Supplement (TES) (6 March 1987) summed up the situation well. ‘The Plowden Report has been misquoted, misunderstood, over-simplified, torn to shreds by academics and used by a few schools to justify some fairly mindless practice’. Twenty years on, it said, ‘primary teachers are beset by criticism, renewed accusations (unsupported by evidence) of falling standards in basic skills, and calls for a national curriculum and ‘benchmarks’ at 7 and 11’.

We didn’t just get benchmarks. The 1988 Education Reform Act imposed a sterile, content-based National Curriculum, a grotesquely complicated regime of tick boxes and tests, and a system of school league tables which replaced cooperation with competition. And just when we all thought things could only get better, along came Tony Blair’s New Labour administrations. With their Literacy and Numeracy Strategies, they’ve gone even further than the Tories, telling teachers not only what to teach but how to teach it.

So where are we now, 40 years on? And, perhaps even more importantly, where are we going? This issue of Forum tries to answer these questions. In doing so, it unashamedly celebrates Plowden as the great, humane statement about the possibilities of primary education which it undoubtedly was.

It begins by looking back to the precursors of Plowden – the Hadow Reports. It was, after all, Hadow’s proposal, in 1926, for the division of schooling into two stages with the break at 11, which led to the creation of primary schools; and it was the Hadow Reports of 1931 and 1933 which set out a vision of the style of education the new schools should espouse.

Next, in pieces by Peter Cunningham, Paul Warwick, Brian Melling and Philip Gammage, it reviews the history of Plowden in the experience and consciousness of teachers. As Peter Cunningham says, the report ‘hangs like a backdrop, setting the scene in which these teachers lived their professional lives’.

Then, it examines a range of Plowden-related issues in the light of events since the report was published. Mike Brogden argues that changes in the design of school buildings had little effect on what went on in them; Alicia James assesses Plowden’s part in changing adult concepts of childhood; and Trevor Kerry asks if integration is a ‘dirty word’ or a ‘golden key’. Michael Armstrong analyses the art work of three young American children; Mike Aylen argues that Plowden played an important role in promoting parental participation in primary schools; and Leslie Carrick reviews foreign language teaching from Plowden to the present. Elizabeth Wood argues that the concept of child-centred education has re-emerged within contemporary social policy initiatives; Michael Tidd looks at what happened to the middle schools which Plowden proposed; and George Smith, Teresa Smith and Tom Smith revisit Educational Priority Areas.

It brings the story up to date with Maurice Galton’s analysis of the effects of New Labour’s education policies on primary schools and their pupils, and with Diane Hofkins’s review of her 20 years as assistant editor of the TES.

And finally, it looks to the future with Robin Alexander’s piece about the new Primary Review, which he is leading. Supported by the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation and based at Cambridge University’s Faculty of Education, the Review aims to be ‘a wide-ranging and independent enquiry into the condition and future of primary education in England’ (Primary Review website: see Links below). Given all that has happened in the 40 years since Plowden, the Review is timely and welcome.

The Review team is anxious to receive ideas and evidence, so if you get this copy of Forum in time, do visit the Primary Review website (see Links below) for details of how to contribute. The deadline for submissions is 1 April 2007.

It is easy – especially at my age! – to wallow in rose-tinted remembrances of the past. But looking back has its value, for it is only by knowing the past that we can understand the present, and only by understanding the present that we can hope to do better for our children in the future.

Maurice Kogan 10 April 1930‑6 January 2007

As I finished writing the above editorial, I learned of the death of Maurice Kogan. He will be remembered for his many books and for his work at Brunel University. But for readers of Forum – and especially of this issue – he will best be remembered as the Secretary of the Plowden Committee, a job which enabled him to promote the importance of evidence-based educational research of value to both practitioners and theorists.

In May last year I wrote to Maurice to ask him if he would contribute an article to this issue. He replied: ‘I’m glad to be asked but a bit overwhelmed with requests for productions that are not at the top of my own agenda – which includes contending with ill health. So I must beg to be excused. At 76 one is entitled to some rest!’ After such a long and distinguished career, he is certainly entitled to that.

Anne Corbett’s obituary of Maurice Kogan can be found on the Guardian website at:

http://education.guardian.co.uk/obituary/story/0,,1986788,00.html

DEREK GILLARD

References

Central Advisory Council for Education (1967) Children and their Primary Schools. The Plowden Report. London: Her Majesty’s Stationery Office.
Nunes, A. (n.d.) From Plato to Plowden. http://www.pigeonpostbox.co.uk/ppbmisc/others.php
Plowden, B. (1987) ‘Plowden’ Twenty Years On, Oxford Review of Education, 13(1), p. 119ff. http://www.dg.dial.pipex.com/documents/plowdenore09.shtml

Links
Derek Gillard’s website (http://www.dg.dial.pipex.com) includes the full texts of all the Hadow Reports and the Plowden Report.
Primary Review website. http://www.primaryreview.org.uk

 

Presaging Plowden: an introduction to the Hadow Reports

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.7

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

The author provides notes on the historical context and membership of the consultative committees chaired by Sir W.H. Hadow, summarises each of the six reports produced between 1923 and 1933, and assesses the extent to which they informed the development of education in England, noting that the Plowden Committee felt compelled to reiterate many of Hadow’s recommendations.

 

Plowden in History: popular and professional memory

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.21

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

The author reflects on the way that the Plowden Report is represented in the historical record. Simple narratives of education policy are inadequate to capture the Report’s significance in a decade of cultural turmoil, and the professional contention that it generated. Historical accounts will vary according to the viewpoint of the historian, and we must have regard to oral as well as documentary evidence. Following the Plowden Report, subsequent researches in the primary classroom and changes in state education policy indicate its practical and symbolic importance, but the memories of teachers are sometimes more muted in their recall of its impact on their practice.

 

Echoes of Plowden? Opportunities and Pressures Evident in Teachers’ Experience of Autonomy and Accountability in One School Community

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.33

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

In the light of some of the aspirations for education expressed in the Plowden Report, this short piece considers the experiences of teachers in a ‘progressive’ English independent school. There is a particular focus on what might loosely be termed job satisfaction. It is suggested that, whilst these teachers enjoy their work, they have professional concerns about externally imposed notions of accountability, about professional autonomy and about the significance of the school community – issues that seem linked and that will have resonance for many in the teaching profession

 

Plowden and Me: a personal memoir

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.39

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

The author argues that the Plowden Report, though rarely read, underpinned the work and careers of many primary school teachers. He relates his own experiences of teaching in schools and expresses his pleasure at having rediscovered Plowden through his work in a further education college Child Studies department.

 

None So Blind: early childhood education and care – the connective tissue

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.47

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

The author makes sense of the story of his professional life through the eyes of several important writers and teachers on education and says that, for him, Bridget Plowden ranks alongside John Dewey, Friedrich Froebel, Ben Morris and A.S. Neill.

 

Plowden and Primary School Buildings: a story of innovation without change

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.55

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

The Plowden Report encouraged the design of more compact and flexible school buildings to accommodate its vision of child-centred teaching. These schools came to be known as ‘open plan’. By the late 1970s about 10% of schools were of open-plan design but researchers found serious weaknesses in the quality of their work. Plowden’s ideals were not often to be found in practice in open-plan schools. Changes in teaching methodologies had not kept pace with innovation in school design and the rhetoric of child-centredness was not matched by the reality of the experience of many primary pupils. The explanations for this include the conservatism of teachers as well as the propensity to failure of centrally imposed ideas.

 

Adult Concepts of Childhood: did Plowden make a difference?

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.67

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

The author reviews the concepts of childhood which underpinned traditional methods of teaching and assesses the extent to which these concepts have changed since the Plowden Report and the advent of child-centred education.

 

Integration: dirty word or golden key?

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.77

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

This article examines the notion of integrated studies as a way of organising curriculum in schools. Drawing on the insights of educational philosophy, curriculum theory and learning theory it establishes the soundness of a theoretical case for integration. It examines what this view means for the art and science of teaching, and notes examples of successful integration in schools. The paper identifies the roots of integrated studies in the thinking of the Plowden Report and suggests that the approach is equally valid today.

 

‘Impassioned Experience’: notes on the art work of three young children in an American elementary school

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.93

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

The author presents three fragments from the art work of a class of American elementary school children to illustrate the imaginative power of children’s thought and language.

 

From Teacher Aides to Teaching Assistants: how Plowden promoted parental participation in our primary schools

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.107

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

The author describes the changes which classroom assistants have seen over the past 40 years in terms of their job title and role. He argues that the Plowden Report’s recommendations for greater responsibilities, better training opportunities and an increase in the number of teaching assistants in schools are at last being implemented.

 

Then and Now: foreign language teaching in schools from Plowden to the present

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.115

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

The author looks at what the Plowden Report recommended concerning the introduction and teaching of foreign languages in primary schools, and assesses the extent to which, 40 years on, its suggestions have been implemented.

 

Reconceptualising Child-Centred Education: contemporary directions in policy, theory and practice in early childhood

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.119

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

The purpose of this article is to examine contemporary transformations in early childhood education, in light of developments in policy, theory and practice, and to chart significant changes and continuities over the last 40 years. The Plowden Report had a significant impact on early childhood education, because it reified developmental theories, and child-centred approaches to learning through discovery, exploration and play, and to planning the curriculum around children’s needs and interests. However, these constructs proved to be problematic in theory and in practice, and provoked unprecedented policy interventions in curriculum and pedagogy. It is argued here that the concept of child-centred education has re-emerged within contemporary social policy initiatives that focus provision and multi-professional services on children and their families. Furthermore, theoretical advances have challenged the dominance of developmental theories, and integrate social, cultural and individual perspectives. Children are seen as competent social actors within a complex network of social and cultural influences. This places children and significant adults at the heart of contemporary educational processes.

 

Whatever Happened to Plowden’s Middle Schools?

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.135

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

The author surveys the brief history of middle schools, from Plowden’s recommendation of 12 as the age of transfer, to the present day, and asks if there are now arguments for a review of current arrangements.

 

Whatever Happened to EPAs? Part 2: Educational Priority Areas – 40 years on

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.141

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

Twenty years ago George Smith wrote ‘Whatever Happened to Educational Priority Areas?’ for the Plowden twentieth anniversary edition of the Oxford Review of Education. He is still working in the same field – a tribute, he says, not just to the impact of the NHS and medical sciences, but also to the power of the agenda and ideas set by the Plowden Committee as well as the intractable nature of many of the issues it addressed. In this article, the authors first sketch the origins and development of the Educational Priority Area idea in the 1960s and its subsequent decline and rise, through the development of area-based initiatives under the Labour governments since 1997. They then analyse the current position of the former EPA areas 40 years on, to demonstrate both continuity and change.

 

New Labour and Education: an evidence-based analysis

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.157

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

This article looks at the evidence concerning performance and progress in the primary school over the lifetime of New Labour’s tenure in government since 1997. It examines the claims made by New Labour that the Literacy and Numeracy Strategies have been an outstanding success and have changed the ways that teachers teach. On the evidence of the author’s own research and that of other independent researchers this claim appears contentious. Attainment targets are still to be reached, pupils’ attitudes to core subjects and liking of school have declined, and teacher stress has increased. Far from changing teaching so that it has become more ‘interactive’, whole-class teaching appears to have become more didactic and less challenging. The article concludes by arguing that the latest revisions of the Primary Strategy, while attempting to deal with some of the problems identified by the research, will also fail unless the continuing emphasis on accountability and testing is also reappraised.

 

Twenty Years at the TES – and not a word about phonics

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.179

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

In her former role as primary editor at the Times Educational Supplement, the author met the great and the good of the educational world and monitored developments in schools, always with interest, often with concern, and – sometimes – with bemusement.

 

Where There is No Vision ...

doi: 10.2304/forum.2007.49.1.187

VIEW FULL TEXT | BACK TO CONTENTS LIST

Plowden’s 40th anniversary coincides with the launch of a new enquiry – the 2006‑08 Primary Review – into the condition and future of primary education in England. This article outlines the scope, character and aspirations of the Primary Review, points up similarities and differences with Plowden, and draws some important lessons from the Plowden experience. Along the way, the article argues for Plowden to be rescued from the tangle of well-meaning interpretations and less well-meaning myths which have obscured its actual text; and stresses the need for a vision for primary education which provides a proper moral response to the fragile condition of the world which today’s children will inherit.

line

© SYMPOSIUM BOOKS Ltd
PO Box 204, Didcot, Oxford OX11 9ZQ, United Kingdom
info@symposium-books.co.uk
www.symposium-books.co.uk