Past TimesEd

17th October 2003 at 01:00
75 years ago

* October 20, 1928

Miss EC Wheeler, headmistress of the infants' department of Queen's Head-street School, Islington, speaking at a meeting of the education section of the British Psychological Society on "Backwardness in Arithmetic", said that the child in a poor and overcrowded home, whose early life was starved of play experiences such as building with blocks, was handicapped in the early stages of number, especially if he began formal education as soon as he entered school. Without this necessary foundation of knowledge he found the subject dull and difficult and an emotional attitude was set up against it.

50 years ago

* October 16, 1953

Two party conferences within a fortnight have proved once more that education is now political dynamite. The pretence that education is above politics can be maintained no longer. The issues are becoming more political every day at the local level and at Westminster also, and now the Labour party has announced that it intends to use popular disquiet about secondary schools as one of its principal weapons at the next election....The paradox is that few politicians are interested in education, and fewer still know anything about it.

25 years ago

* October 20, 1978

By general consent, Mr Norman St John-Stevas did himself a power of good in Conservative Party circles by a scintillating performance at Brighton last week. Inhabitants of the real world must, of course, wonder about the relevance, if any, of party conference rhetoric to the serious business of life. But politicians, if they are to make their way in the realm of practical affairs, must also shine (or at least avoid palpable failure) in the fantasy world in which the party faithful live, and this means taking part in the elaborate rites of autumn, celebrated each year at one of a handful of seaside resorts. In truth, some oratorical legerdemain was called for. The Conservatives are deeply divided on education policy. Mr St John-Stevas has cobbled together a garment to wear at the next election, but he knows how easily it could come unravelled.

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