The slow death of outside activity

20th January 2006 at 00:00
David Henderson trawls through the Scottish Office files on education from 30 years ago, released earlier this month

The slow demise of after-school activities in the 1980s and 1990s is routinely blamed on the teachers' dispute of the mid-1980s, but Scottish Office papers released under the 30-year rule reveal the downturn was evident more than a decade earlier.

Teachers began to ditch their voluntary contribution to sport, music and the clubs that give schools their rounded character in the early 1970s, according to a Scottish Education Department paper.

In June 1975, a subcommittee of the Pack Inquiry (led by Professor Donald Pack of Strathclyde University) into rising truancy and indiscipline looked into the impact of the informal curriculum on disaffection among pupils and was briefed by SED officials.

They say in their early discussions on curriculum and organisation:

"After-school activities largely disappearing. Organisational problems very real: transport, supervision, additional imposition on teachers, and, not least, inflexible thinking about use of formal resources."

Officials do not explain the reversal but the early 1970s witnessed the first signs of rising disaffection among teachers with their pay and conditions.

This culminated in an Educational Institute of Scotland work-to-rule to back the union's campaign for a 23 per cent pay rise, smaller classes and stipulated time for preparation and correction.

It began to bite in 1974-75 when several parts of the country, notably Lanarkshire and Glasgow, were short of secondary teachers. Part-time education was common, affecting some 46,000 secondary pupils.

Extra-curricular activities declined steadily as pressures grew on teachers and it now appears they went into further decline in the mid-1980s, as more teachers refused to give up their spare time to help out with clubs and activities.

Further and more widespread industrial action in the mid-1980s finally nailed teachers' goodwill. This had already been strained by growing curriculum reforms which were in full swing after the Munn and Dunning inquiries into curriculum and assessment in S3 and S4, which were launched in 1975 and reported in 1977.

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