An overlooked gem in a big red cover

18th April 2003 at 01:00
The conclusions reached in the 10-14 report of 1986 still matter to teachers and children, says Wilson Bain

FOOTBALLERS need no introduction to the "Wee Red Book". Teachers have become familiar with the Red Book on staffing, but who remembers the "Big Red Book" - the 10-14 report? David Henderson's article (TESS, March 14) shows that some people do, and the current debate over 10-14 teachers could include Education 10-14 in Scotland, published in 1986 by a committee of which I was a member.

The report caused a stir. But various commentators agreed on one point - it did matter to teachers and pupils. The Scottish Executive's moves to improve primary-secondary transition, as well as standards of attainment in S1-S2, echo the report.

One issue was "the great divide" between the two sectors, which governments chose to widen in the mid-20th century. For example, the key documents of 1965 - the Primary Memorandum and Circular 600 (on comprehensive reorganisation) - emphasised the distinctiveness of the two stages.

Against that background, the 10-14 report took as its axiom that every leaver should have a "coherent, continuous and progressive education", principles taken on board by the 5-14 curriculum programme from 1988.

We considered several possible structures and means to achieve that axiom, including two which are now of some interest - a system including middle schools and a "10-14" teacher. The committee looked at the three-tier systems in England, and in Grangemouth where members visited the schools.

We did not argue that these schools should go nor did we reject the Grangemouth approach in its own area. We were impressed by those schools and their staff, and pointed out the arguments in favour of a system with middle schools, many of which "make very good provision".

However, we did not regard a three-tier system as the only good arrangement. Instead, the best middle school features could also be created by primary and secondary schools collaborating in a "partnership for progress". The Grangemouth liaison arrangements worked well because teachers put time and effort into their partnerships.

The report also analysed the idea of a "10-14 teacher". We knew that training courses had become more differentiated between primary and secondary, but still considered the arrangements for a 10-14 qualification.

However, the committee did not recommend this, for several reasons.

It could put holders at a disadvantage in both sectors, and reduce their chances of promotion in either. Scotland had no tradition of initial training in such a partial qualification; in-service courses have been the accepted route. As for secondary teaching, qualifying to teach only some of the year groups had ended by 1970 "and we do not wish to turn the clock back".

Recent suggestions for a 10-14 qualified teacher in one or two curriculum areas from the 5-14 structure, plus cross-curricular areas such as personal and social development in S1-S2, seem to face very similar problems to those in 1986.

The report also recommended policies for pupil care which could ease the transition to secondary. Central to those in S1-S6 was the "class tutor", in essence following up the work of the primary class teacher and applying the benefits of secondary guidance.

The class tutor should get to know one class well, if possible over six years, and would become a subject teacher, register teacher, first link with the rest of the school system, first line guidance teacher and link with parents. Clearly a demanding role, although all secondary teachers should have the ability to carry it out.

The report argued for a 10-14 co-ordinating team and joint studies between the two sectors in pre-service training. Each co-ordinating team should take account of national and local guidelines in reaching its deci-sions.

Each school should apply those decisions in its own way. This was to be a long-term process of gradual change. How contrasting with today's demands for instant "improvement".

I hope that the 10-14 report will be reread, especially its overall conclusions, since it is fairest to consider its recommendation as a whole.

Even if it has a bright red cover, it's best not to cherry-pick.

Wilson Bain lectures at the Scottish Centre for PE, Sport and Leisure Studies at Moray House Institute of Education, Edinburgh University.

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