Michael Barber

Things will never be the same again

Tuesday marks the 40th anniversary of a speech by James Callaghan that changed the education landscape for ever. Michael Barber analyses its legacy and impact on schools today

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The turning point in modern British educational history was exactly 40 years ago this month. On 18 October 1976, at Ruskin College, Oxford, James Callaghan, who was prime minister at the time, delivered a landmark speech about schools policy. Nothing in education has been the same since. The professional destinies experienced by headteachers and teachers today in 21st-century classrooms were set when Callaghan stood up to speak.

Believe it or not, before that autumn day, prime ministers and their education ministers did not meddle in the day-to-day work of schools. Until then, the public ...

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