In brief

A LITTLE OVERMATTER. By Nicholas Bagnall. Southover. pound;13.99.

There are two kinds of education history: the authorised version found on training courses, or pursued in the interests of research or promotion; and educational journalism, which often casts a less conformist light.

Nicholas Bagnall's memoir describes his years as education correspondent of The Sunday Telegraph, where he gained much insight into the educational scene in the 1960s and 1970s. Did you know that the 1967 Plowden report recommended changing the 11-plus to a 12-plus? Secondary school reorganisation was another key issue. He explains why Mrs Thatcher had little choice as Education Secretary but to approve comprehensive schemes if local opinion was in favour, though civil servants alleged that she took Section 13 notices to bed with her.

Sir Edward Boyle, Bagnall's pick as the cleverest education minister of his time, had made the most perceptive comment on the matter a decade earlier, when fellow Tories bayed for him to save grammar schools. Whichever system we adopted, he said, there would be pupils in the wrong place, their talents overvalued or undervalued or simply not recognised.

Bagnall had his own battles with indignant Telegraph readers when, instead of bashing revolting LSE students, he insisted on explaining the reasons for their militancy. But his verdicts on ministers were even-handed: respect for Chuter Ede, Sir David Eccles and Anthony Crosland, but little for Geoffrey Lloyd or Edward Short. And Quentin Hogg? "Slightly off his head."

An individual take on educational politics, but just as readable on the Church, the book trade and Fleet Street, this stylish bit of overmatter was well saved.

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