From the archive - Headteachers' conference

13th May 2011 at 01:00
14 June 1924 - Delegates debate whether children should be 'fashioned' to suit work in agriculture or commerce

The 27th annual conference of the National Association of Head Teachers opened in Nottingham with a civic reception on Saturday morning, 7 June. About 200 delegates were present. Mr A Lord, of Manchester, was installed as president and delivered his presidential address.

Mr Lord reminded his audience that recently the conference of the National Chamber of Trade expressed the opinion that the present system of elementary education was unsatisfactory for those entering industrial and commercial occupations. It was urged that businessmen ought to have some say regarding the education of the boys and girls who were to enter employment and in deciding what subjects would be useful to them in later life. It was suggested that there was too much idealism and too little practicability.

In viewing the curriculum it would seem a fair proposition to look at the matter in the light of the possibilities the future held for the child. In this connection it would be readily granted that the child's life was much bigger than his livelihood. Livelihood, important as it might be, whether the industry, commerce or agriculture meant for the great mass narrow environment, monotonous repetition, restricted development. The call from the businessman was for facility in the special work in which the business stood.

Should the out-flow of the schools be fashioned to suit this or that business? The thoughtful parent would answer no: he had hope for his child of a brighter future, of an achievement greater than his own. He asked not from the school or the curriculum that the child be made a clerk, a mechanic, an agriculturalist. A child had a fuller chance of living, and a chance of living a fuller life, under a curriculum broadly conceived and sympathetically treated.

No system of education, no school - secondary or elementary - no curriculum would make the raw product, new to the business, the equal at the start of the more experienced unit he was to replace. It was not a ready-made article, but a human being with a developing power that was available. What the nation had a right to ask, and should demand from the schools, was that its children should have the largest opportunity to develop to full citizenship.

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