History of Primary Schools Programme 1

11 Sep 2009

 My new series 'Abacus to Circle Time: A Short History of Primary Schools' starts on Tuesday 15th at 1600  on BBC Radio 4. 

 If you are interested, please try to catch it. It is not easy to get coverage of primary schools on the mainstream broadcast media, so if you like it please let the bosses of Radio 4 know (or even if you don't like it).

 Sorry about the awkward afternoon time-slot for those working in schools or serving tea to young children, but don't forget there's always the BBC iplayer/Listen Again facility. I'll put up the link when it appears.

Meanwhile, here's a taste of what's in Programme One:

'Everyone remembers their primary school: whether it’s times tables, the 11+, or SATs. Or maybe it’s warm milk at playtime and butter beans for school dinners?

  But how and why have primary schools changed? And why are the issues surrounding what children are taught and how they are tested still so controversial today?

 This new three-part series, presented by experienced education journalist Mike Baker, traces the controversial changes to the ways we have educated our youngest children over the past 150 years, from the rigidity of the Victorian schoolroom to the informal, and occasionally anarchic, experiential learning of the progressive 1970’s school.

 Calling on vivid personal reminiscences of children, parents and teachers - and interviews with the key contemporary policy-makers, including Lord Ken Baker and David Blunkett - this series helps explain why arguments over the curriculum, teaching methods, and testing all fundamentally relate to how we view the nature, development and role of the youngest people in our society.

   Programme 1 begins with the strict, no-nonsense Victorian schoolroom and hears from former pupils about their experience of primary schools from the 1930s to the 1960s.

 Baroness Shirley Williams recalls the poverty of her fellow pupils in her London Elementary School in the 1930s. Others remember the harshness of a working-class primary school in Cardiff and of teaching the 11+ stream in Sheffield. 

 Later programmes in the series will trace the origins of progressive teaching methods and the political backlash that led eventually to the creation of the national curriculum and SATs.

 The series includes an interview with the only surviving member of the landmark Plowden Report from the 1960s’ and the architects of the national curriculum, SATs, school league tables, and the numeracy and literacy hours.  

  But, above all, it’s the voices of the children – and their experiences of the classroom – which reveal just how much has changed in the nation’s primary schools.

 A special debate on the way ahead for primary schools follows the final programme in the series.'

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