Primary : Children are the experts

19th February 2004 at 00:00
Children, Power and Schooling: how childhood is structured in the primary school
By Dympna Devine
Trentham Books pound;17.99

It has always been a mystery to me why we allow our schools to be so assiduously and comprehensively monitored, evaluated and inspected by outsiders, when we have instant and daily access to the perceptions of 30 (or more) resident experts on curriculum, learning and pedagogy: the children we teach. Their insider expertise is largely ignored, with honourable exceptions, as is demonstrated by the growing literature on pupil voice. Children, Power and Schooling is a welcome addition to this body of knowledge.

Dympna Devine spent one school year researching in three primary schools in the Republic of Ireland. Her expert witnesses were 133 seven and 11-year-olds. Her aim in this book was to focus on "the lifeworld of children through the lens of child culture"; the result is a tribute to the children's candour, percipience and sense of social justice. Their "lifeworld" is indeed vividly conveyed, but it is far from being the one that Devine argues they deserve.

Mary Jane Drummond is a lecturer in primary education at Cambridge University

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