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Getting on

Fred Sedgwick looks into the business of primary education. There are books that tell you "How to Publish your own Poetry", and poets have little time for them. They ignore the central issue - how is poetry written, and what do we learn from that writing. Much writing about the management of primary schools is similar. What matters - how do children and teachers learn - is sunk beneath considerations of how PR, the budget and staff development is managed.

Hill's book is an example. It has no interest in words like "creativity", "inspiration" or "children". That outdated lexicon has been replaced by "competences", "push factors" and "selling" (I choose at random).

There are some useful statistics for those of us engaged in public speaking, especially about the place of women in primary education (at the bottom of the heap, in case you didn't know). And I was appalled, but not surprised to learn that "back in 1981 when numbers of HMI were relatively high at 407 only 36 inspectors had come from primary schools."

But this is really a book of lists, and often these are lists of skills. Being a good teacher is not a bundle of skills. It is a complex, controversial activity: a moral issue.

If we are to be single-minded about primary education, we should focus on children, not the mere matter of making a school, or a career tick over effectively. We should not be carrying out "skills audits" but watching hard to see how learning happens. Nowadays, to quote Hill, we are supposed to care about "finding a niche in the management structure" and "plugging the gaps in your CV".

I would rather have a sincere poem than one written following the reading of a manual on how to get published. And, by the same token, I would rather have a book about primary teaching that helps me understand learning better.

Damn the niche in the management structure. I'd rather have creativity, inspiration - and children.

Fred Sedgwick was a primary headteacher for 16 years.

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