26th April 2001
THE FUTURE FOR PRIMARY EDUCATION
Lincoln-based academic Professor Trevor Kerry has set out to re-assess the contribution made by the late Lady Plowden to primary education through the report that bears her name.
Lady Plowden was famous as the author of the Government report ‘Children and their Primary Schools’, published in 1967. “This report set the standard for education in the primary sector for the next decade and a half,” says Prof Kerry. “But the long period of Conservative administration headed by Margaret Thatcher and John Major in the 1980s and 1990s moved away from the allegedly ‘trendy Left’ views of Plowden.
“The same theme has been continued under New Labour, thanks in large measure to the views of the former Chief Inspector of Schools, Chris Woodhead.”
In his recent working paper published by the University of Lincolnshire & Humberside, Trevor Kerry reviews some of the myths surrounding the Plowden Report. He reveals that the report does not advocate the open curriculum and so-called progressive teaching methods claimed by its opponents. “Though the report may have had followers who were more extreme in their views, or who misunderstood the messages, it was actually a very careful and balanced assessment of the needs of primary schools,” he says.
Professor Kerry demonstrates that Plowden was based on the best educational research of the time; and his assessment is that, viewed against currently accepted research paradigms, the report still represents sound views about teaching styles and curriculum content.
More significantly, Prof Kerry trawls the report for valid messages for today’s primary practitioners and finds plenty. As well as recommending the increased use and training of support staff in schools, and pointing to social messages about the importance of providing sound opportunities for children from under-privileged backgrounds and good home-school relations, the report champions the importance of learning and teaching aids.
“Lady Plowden would have welcomed the computer age - she would have seen its potential for helping all children learn better, and for giving disadvantaged children better life chances,” he argues.
The future for primary education, contd…
“She also put great store on the need for teachers to be involved in research and theory, and to have an intellectual approach to their jobs. Plowden’s approach was based on a view that education should reflect the values of society, not on the mechanistic measurement of standards against (often) questionable criteria. The report still has much to offer teachers who really want to explore the purpose of education for themselves, rather than being conditioned by political dogma.
“It is very sad that work of such quality should have been sacrificed on the false altar of political expediency,” claims Prof Kerry. “Lady Plowden was a former President of the College of Teachers, and I am very proud to have followed in her footsteps in holding the office of Senior Vice President of this learned society.”
Professor Kerry’s working paper will be the subject of a number of lectures around the country later in the year, beginning with the annual lecture of the College of Teachers in the University of London on May 11th 2001. For details of other venues contact the Conference Services Unit at the University of Lincolnshire & Humberside (email email@example.com).
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Professor Trevor Kerry is Visiting Professor in the International Institute for Educational Leadership at the University of Lincolnshire & Humberside and is Professor of Education and Senior Vice President of the College of Teachers.
His working paper is ‘Plowden: Mirage, Myth or Flag of Convenience? Working Paper 43 of the University.’
The IIEL Conference Service programme details are available from Dawn Hunt on 01522-886085.
Trevor Kerry can be contacted on 01522-688612 or at TKConsultancy@eggconnect.net
For more information contact: Jez Ashberry, Press and Media Relations Manager
University of Lincolnshire & Humberside
Tel: 01522 886042
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