Way back when the Hacky Sac was cool

Do you remember when 'Eurovision' was hot TV? Helen Ward and Adi Bloom report on a study comparing teacher attitudes today with 30 years ago

IT was the year that Marlon Brando became the Godfather, rap star Eminem was born and the country sang along to Alice Cooper's hit School's Out.

In 1972 Donny Osmond was melting girls' hearts with Puppy Love, while boys played with the latest craze - a beanbag football called the Hacky Sac.

And it was also the year when a snapshot was being taken of what primary teachers thought their schools should be doing.

Researchers at the University of the West of England are hoping to repeat the exercise this autumn to discover how teachers' attitudes have changed since the introduction of the national curriculum and league tables.

They have just completed a preliminary, small-scale study of 52 teachers which yielded at least one startling result - nothing much has changed.

Dr Penelope Harnett, who is carrying out the research with Elizabeth Newman, said: "What has surprised us is the consistency of primary teachers' beliefs over a long period of time and the broad conception which they hold of their roles."

The survey asked teachers what their key aims were, whether they were able to achieve them and what constraints they faced. The highest percentage of responses (37 per cent) was that teachers wanted to help children realise their potential, whether that was academic, artistic or social. Promoting high self-esteem was also highly valued.

The findings echo those from the early 1970s, when Ashton published The aims of primary education: a study of teachers' opinions. That study found that teachers' top priority was children's happiness; other key priorities were their personal, social and moral development and basic skills.

However, John Wilks, head of West St Leonards primary, in East Sussex, says pursuing these aims is more difficult now than it was 30 years ago.

"You can say that your priority is to keep children happy, but children nowadays are subjected to booster classes. We're allowing them more time to do what they don't do well, and none of us is happy doing that," he said.

A number of differences did emerge. In a report on the 2002 study, the authors said today's teachers were more articulate in discussing how children learn and the teaching strategies they use.

The 2002 survey also looked at what constraints teachers faced. Only six felt they were able to fulfil their aims fully within school. The main problem was the lack of time, followed by too great an emphasis on the national literacy and numeracy strategies and a lack of adult support and money.

"There's far too much expectation about scoring and national tests now than there is about real development of kids. The fun has gone out of it," said Anne Copley, head of Oakgrove primary, in Stockport.

"Back then there was not enough structure or emphasis on achievement, but now we seem to have lost the balance between the two."

'Developing children's potential. Primary school teachers' views on their professional roles in the 21st century', Dr Penelope Harnett and Elizabeth Newman


1972: School-leaving age raised to 16

1976: Jim Callaghan initiated the "great debate" on standards in public education with a speech at Ruskin College

1977: HMI report on Curriculum 11-16

1981: Special Educational Needs Act, triggering the statementing process

1981: Baker days

1988 : Landmark Education Reform Act, introducing national curriculum and grant-maintained schools

1988: GCSE exams introduced

1991: National curriculum implemented

1991: School Teachers' Review Body set up

1991: Publication of parent's charter

1991-5: National tests phased in

1992: General national vocational qualifications and old AS-levels introduced

1993: Office for Standards in Education established

1994: Teacher Training Agency set up

1996: First national publication of performance tables

1998: Dearing review of national curriculum

1998: Literacy and numeracy hours introduced

2000: Launch of Curriculum 2000

2001: First new AS-level exams



Chart-toppers include: "Amazing Grace" by the Royal Scots Dragoon Guards Band

Top-grossing film: The Godfather

Most popular TV programme: Eurovision Song Contest

Popular books: Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach, The Joy of Sex by Alex Comfort, Love Story by Erich Segal

Popular toys: roller-skates, Hacky Sacs, Space hoppers

Fashion trends: loon pants, crushed velvet, knee-high boots, tinted contact lenses

Price of loaf of bread: 2.5p

Average price of house: pound;7,374

Price of pint of beer: 16p

Average teachers' salary: pound;2,170 (1974)

UK population: 55.928m (1971)


Chart toppers include: "Anything is PossibleEvergreen" by Will Young Top-grossing film: Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones

Most popular TV programme: EastEnders

Popular books: Atonement by Ian McEwan, How To Be Good by Nick Hornby, Billy by Pamela Stephenson

Popular toys: Bob the Builder dolls, mobile phones, computer games

Fashion trends: cowboy tassles, hippy prints, gypsy look

Price of loaf of bread: 58p

Average price of house: pound;111,968

Price of pint of beer: pound;1.81

Average teachers' salary: pound;23,170

UK population: 59.756m (2000)

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