Landmarks in the making of today's primary system

24th January 1997 at 00:00

1926 The first Hadow report recommends the establishment of separate primary and secondary schools to replace elementary

(5 - 14) education.

1931 The second Hadow report establishes a rationale for primary education, and makes recommenda tions for its development. It describes the primary curriculum in terms of "activity and experience", but also acknowledges the importance of "knowledge to be acquired" and "facts to be stored".

1944 The Education Act formally establishes primary education as a stage within the national system.

1967 The Plowden report makes recommendations for primary education: the expansion of nursery education; a transfer age of 12; the development of non-streaming and measures to improve home-school liaison. It advocates the extension of "progressive methods" and provides a favourable overall appraisal of the primary sector.

1969 Black Paper One criticises progressive methods, identifying "the revolution in our primary schools" as the cause of student unrest in 1968-69 and other social ills.

1974 A Language for Life (The Bullock Report) is published following concern over falling reading standards. It finds that such claims cannot be substantiated but that reading standards can, and should, be improved.

1976 The Auld Report criticises William Tyndale Junior School in London for operating an extreme, almost anarchic, version of "child-centred education".

1976 Teaching Styles and Pupil Progress by Neville Bennett offers some evidence on the effects of child-centred education on attainment. Its claims - that formal teaching styles promote higher achievement than either informal or mixed styles - were later re-evaluated by the author.

1978 The HMI Primary Survey reports that "high priority is given to teaching children to read, write and learn mathematics", that "the results of surveys conducted since 1955 are consistent with gradually improving reading standards of 11-year-olds" but that "the demands of society seem likely to continue to rise".

1982 The Cockcroft Report concludes that the broadening of the mathematics curriculum beyond simple number "has had a beneficial effect both in improving children's attitudes to mathematics and also in laying the foundations of better understanding".

1988 The Education Reform Act establishes a national curriculum, local management of schools and opting out of local authority control.

1992 The Department of Education and Science publishes Curriculum Organisation and Classroom Practice in Primary Schools (The Three Wise Men's report) in an attempt to foster a re-appraisal of the teaching methods, forms of staff deployment and modes of curriculum organisation. It claims that "the progress of primary pupils has been hampered by the influence of highly questionable dogmas which have led to excessively complex classroom practices and devalued the place of subjects in the curriculum".

1992 OFSTED is established to oversee the inspection of all schools in England every four years.

1995 A revised, scaled- down national curriculum is introduced in primary and secondary schools.

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