Gerald Haigh welcomes a return to the idea that advocates freedom for learners with practical blueprints to help the teacher make it work
Teachers are worried about personalised learning. That's not surprising, given that so many have been trained and mentored in an environment that emphasises whole-class teaching and the three-part lesson, not forgetting to write on the board a one-size-fits-all "learning objective".
Older teachers, though, won't be so fazed. Compare Elaine Wilmot's bullet-point definition of personalised learning, which includes "not being a 'slave' to a curriculum of whomever's design, but working with pupils to create a flexible learning path that will meet their changing needs," with, "each child will be able to work at his own rate and depth and usually for as long as he likes".
The second quotation is from The Integrated Day in the Primary School, written in 1968 by Mary Brown and Norman Precious, Leicestershire primary heads. Of course, the comparison's not really fair. The integrated day of the late Sixties gave a degree of freedom that some of us said even then could only be managed by the most talented heads and teachers. In many places, it was mismanaged to the point where it set back the cause of progressive primary education for - well, up to just now, I suppose.
So you take your choice. You either look at personalised learning and say, wearily, "here we go again", or you read Elaine Wilmot, and visit the many schools where her vision is already being realised (particularly some in Wales, where the key stage 1 tests have been binned) and you say, "Maybe this time it's really happening".
What Elaine does, compared with Mary and Norman, is give detailed practical blueprints for how to run a classroom and a school which gives responsibility and freedom to the learner without removing control and leadership from the teacher. It's all there: the planning, subjects, room, routines, assessment techniques. I only hope colleagues who grew up under a more teacher-centred regime can make the change of mindset Personalised Learning In The Primary Classroom: A practical guide for teachers and school leaders
By Elaine Wilmot
Crown House Publishing pound;19.99