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From the archive - 04.01.1980

Reformation for a brave new world?

He is a brave man who would open his account in 1980 with a bold call for the wholesale structural reorganisation of primary and secondary education. But how better to describe Dr Harry Judge (director of the Department of Educational Studies, University of Oxford), at the North of England Conference, calling for the end of the long-standing distinction between primary and secondary education and the reorganisation of all education beyond the age of 5 into two categories: compulsory and post-compulsory?

Dr Judge is certainly not alone in fancying a break at 16. Falling rolls are going to reinforce the already formidable evidence in favour of the concentration of teaching learning talent at what is now known as the sixth-form level.

The desirability of taking the opportunity to do this while at the same time getting rid of the rigid distinction between education and training, general education and vocational, full-time and part-time, continuous and discontinuous, is obvious.

The tertiary colleges have shown how this can be done. No doubt there are formidable logistical reasons why it would be impractical to go over to such a system overnight, but Dr Judge is surely right in thinking that the first step would be to accept the unity of the post-compulsory stage - as has been done in a few local areas where schools and FE colleges cooperate in making joint plans for the 16-19 age group.

It is a safe bet that what to do about the 16-19 age range will provide a major preoccupation for the 1980s as it did for the second half of the 1970s. Dr Judge must be right, in logic, to challenge the arbitrary way in which resources are distributed over the post-compulsory age groups - in particular, the sharp distinction between the generous mandatory student grants for full-time higher education and the haphazard and inadequate support for those who stay on elsewhere.

Now is the time, when Dr Boyson (Rhodes Boyson, schools minister) is dusting off plans for loans, to consider ways of redistributing the present package. But this requires a firm commitment to future development. Otherwise redistribution is quickly overtaken by elimination.

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