Junior baccalaureate can make Year 6 less repulsive

29th November 2002 at 00:00
According to the 1066 and All That theory of history, the Roundheads were Right but Repulsive and the Cavaliers Wrong but Wromantic. Now Joe Hallgarten, a bright young thinker at the Institute for Public Policy Research think-tank, has applied this approach to the history of school reform. He seeks a system that will be Right but Romantic.

This is as opposed to the Wrong but Romantic "progressive education" of the 1970s and 80s and the Right but Repulsive years of "informed prescription" that brought the national literacy and numeracy strategies. Right but Romantic education would be based on "informed professional judgment".

Last week, bright thinkers of all ages met at the Royal Society of Arts in London to examine Joe's proposal for a primary baccalaureate (see TES, November 15). This would be an optional qualification allowing children to "discover and pursue their one or two learning passions in much greater detail". Most of the work would be done in Year 6. The baccalaureate would also be a focus for new ideas in primary education. It would be developed not just by teachers, but the whole community.

Now the IPPR and RSA need to find a dozen or so schools to try it out in 2003-4, and to find the money. Joe Hallgarten has already been contacted by some 30 schools, as well as an education action zone. After the pilots, he wants to roll out the bac to other interested schools in autumn 2006. It sounds like a wonderful opportunity for able junior children, whose brains are at a perfect stage to throw themselves into in-depth learning before the distractions of adolescence set in.

But the scheme could face serious obstacles if the Government's obsession with targets carries on past 2006. Pilot schools are likely to be confident ones, with good results. Unless the pressure to hit targets eases, many other schools - busy drilling children for all-important tests - will feel too timid to take up this innovation.

However, Joe Hallgarten is hopeful that testing will not prove a major barrier. By 2006 the literacy and numeracy strategies will have been going for six years, so schools will be more relaxed about them. It is also to be hoped that the Government will not set more targets after 2006.

One thing that should not be a problem is the scheme's name. The International Baccalaureate Organisation runs a primary programme, but does not call it the primary bac (see below).

For more on the primary bac plans, email j.hallgarten@ippr.org.uk

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