30 years ago

28th July 2006 at 01:00
And 30 years ago . . . Bill Armstrong, who was head of Penicuik High, a strongly-performing comprehensive, pointed the finger at those who would deny a curriculum for excellence (TESS, July 30, 1976): It would be all too easy to charge the sickness of society to the comprehensive school account. There is no doubt that, increasingly in the public mind and in the eyes of many teachers, the complications attendant upon RoSLA (raising of the school leaving age), open-plan and play-as-you-learn are more or less directly related to comprehensivization.

Equally, there is no doubt that the comprehensive school existed successfully in country areas long before the fringe benefits of a pandering social philosophy increased the material expectations of youngsters to the point of absurdity.

Boredom always was endemic in the school system, even for the brightest child, and learning to cope was part of an unwritten syllabus designed to prepare the well-taught leaver for the arid as for the greener stretches of a useful working life.

The fact that certain modern methods in subject teaching seem to have been expressly introduced to leave the average child suspended in mid-air cannot in fairness be imputed to the comprehensive school as such. Nor can the comprehensive school accept responsibility for the odd death-wish appointment of ideological theorists to positions of control or for the chameleons in office who have a matching slough for all political seasons.

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