The public garden

19th April 1996 at 01:00
Primary schools are for children. Not consumers, customers, clients, taxpayers, politicians, newspaper editors, civil servants, or even parents.

The most important resource for children in schools is teachers. Therefore the central focus of this new section in The TES is on teaching and children. We will, of course, offer features for the whole school community, examining links with parents, looking at management issues and analysing policy. But at the heart are articles and ideas to help teachers think about their practice and the children they teach. We want to provide a place for teachers to share their ideas, their concerns and their questions. After all, 200,000 heads are better than one.

This is why the primary and pre-school section's centre pages are sporting a new range of columns and features, ranging from "My Best Lesson" - teachers' tried-and-true success stories - to "Tricky Questions" - the ones asked by children which you need some help to answer. We have invited child journalists from the Children's Express news agency to write for us (on this page for this week), and are launching "Friday's Child", which takes a practical view of the psychology and development of children. There's also a "how to" space, which tackles curriculum problems.

The primary curriculum used to be seen as a secret garden, where tender young shoots could be nurtured. Now, to many teachers, it feels more like a public common, trammelled by anyone who feels like marching through.

There is no doubt that the primary and early years world is under closer scrutiny than ever. Teachers preparing for this year's key stage 2 tests are feeling this particularly strongly, aware that the results will be published for the first time in performance tables, even if they are unreliable, and that their schools will be judged by them.

The early years world is in the spotlight after years of neglect. The controversial pre-school voucher scheme, launched in four volunteer local authorities this week, is focusing all sorts of attention on the education of young children. There are now government curriculum guidelines for this non-statutory sector, with a complex new system of inspection in the pipeline. Will these initiatives lower standards, by pushing all provision down to the lowest common denominator as some experts fear, or will it bring the quality found in good state nursery classes across to other parts of the nursery world? These are questions we will explore over the weeks.

Meanwhile teaching of the 3Rs is under siege again, with a flurry of critical reports and a rash of new centres set up by the Government.

The public scrutiny and discussion of primary and early childhood education need not be a bad thing. There is a great deal of good and even inspired work to be scrutinised and celebrated. Through these pages, you can help us bring this work into the light.

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