Alexander Review: give us back our schools

23rd October 2009 at 01:00
Biggest investigation since Plowden demands the end to an era of centralised control

The biggest investigation into primary education in a generation has demanded that England's schools are reclaimed from politicians who have imposed a "state theory of learning" on teachers.

The final report of the independent Cambridge Primary Review has called for the depoliticisation of the classroom, with central control slashed to a minimum and funding pumped into schools.

The study, which has taken three years and draws on the work of more than 3,000 researchers, begins: "Ours is a public system of education which belongs to the people and is not the personal fiefdom of ministers and their unelected advisors."

Its recommendations include that formal primary education should not start until the age of six, and that the current system of league tables and national tables be scrapped and replaced with a new system of accountability in which teacher assessment plays a stronger role.

Subject specialists should also be introduced alongside generalist class teachers in the upper years of primary, it suggests.

Robin Alexander, who led the inquiry, said its report was about "resetting the agenda for professionals". Entitled Children, Their World, Their Education, it is being sent - unusually - to every school in the UK.

It is the largest inquiry of its kind since Lady Plowden's in 1967, and the parallel Primary Memorandum in Scotland, but it is more independent. The Alexander review was funded by the Esmee Fairbairn charitable foundation, while the 1960s reports were commissioned by the government of the day.

John Bangs, head of education for the National Union of Teachers, said teachers would applaud many of the review's conclusions, including the change in the official primary starting age.

Ministers are due to announce plans for the primary curriculum in England within the next month, which are expected to draw from a separate, Government-sanctioned review led by Sir Jim Rose.

But the Cambridge Primary Review report calls on them to reject the Rose proposals, which include restructuring the curriculum around six "areas of learning".

As the report notes, the Whitehall Department for Children, Schools and Families, as well as Ed Balls, the Schools Secretary south of the border, have criticised the interim reports from the review for containing "a collection of recycled, partial or out-of-date research".

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