07 Jul 2009
I have just interviewed Baroness Shirley Williams for my forthcoming series on the history of primary schools. She was, of course, Education Secretary from 1976 to 1979, under the Callaghan government, and before that was a junior education minister.
She gave some fascinating insights into the discussions that went on around the time of Callaghan's landmark Ruskin speech, which prefigured the rise in government involvement in the curriculum and teaching methods.
She revealed that she had tried in 1978 to implement Callaghan's desire for a basic national curriculum - but that , in the end, time simply ran out for the Labour government. As we know, it took another decade before the national curriculum was created under Mrs Thatcher's government.
Shirley Williams said Labour's national curriculum would have been far less prescriptive than Kenneth Baker's version and would not have had associated national tests.
How different history might have been.
To hear more, look out for the series: From Abacus to Circle Time: A short history of primary schools on BBC Radio 4, starting in September. I will post more details here nearer the time.