Essential data on primaries

24th January 1997 at 00:00
TEACHERS, PUPILS AND PRIMARY SCHOOLING Edited by Paul Croll Cassell Pounds 15.99

Comparing haircuts with a three-year-old, I was told that my head was more empty than his. Immediately I filled the space by getting up-to-date with Primary Assessment Curriculum Experience (PACE).

This is a research study following the implementation of the national curriculum in English primary schools. Its latest report, Teachers, Pupils and Primary Schooling, covers pupils as they transfer into key stage 2. It is fascinating and contains enough data to occupy any empty head.

Because PACE studied teacher experiences, working with the same schools for six years, it can substantiate and quantify the views of those working in the primary sector during the implementation of the national curriculum.

The research shows schools are more heavily managed than before and heads are adopting more "directive" roles.

PACE shows that there has been no active resistance at the chalkface to the changes of the last few years, indeed teachers have knuckled down to the tasks. But this is not saying that teachers have been eager proponents of these changes.

The book affirms the imperative that all participants in a process of change in any organisation should share common purposes. Even if they do not consort to undermine change, it will take place more effectively if they share ownership of its purposes.

Herein lies the problem for anyone wishing to introduce change from the top. How do you get staff on your side? Those who dispute that this needs to be done in education regard teachers as implementers of policies devised by others rather than partners in policy, and they are part of the problem of making innovation work. The PACE research shows that "change ultimately depends on teachers themselves being convinced of the need for it".

Half of Year 3 and Year 4 teachers perceived the changes in their role to be considerable; and a third felt more constrained and a loss of autonomy.

Almost 42 per cent of heads felt a greatly reduced sense of job satisfaction. More than a third said it was noticeably worse. This reaction will fade from the statistics as a new generation of heads takes over but for those in their early 50s, change has been radical such that many, PACE tells us, spoke "about their desire to take early retirement". We know the Government intends to cope with this.

Few in primary education will find much to surprise them in the report. For those wishing to understand what has been happening over the past six years in primaries, it is essential reading.

Paul Noble is head of St Andrew's School, Blunsdon, Wiltshire

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