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     About the Review
     What is and what could be
     A glimpse of the future...
     Plus ça change?
     Age of empowerment
     Divided England
     All to play for
     In search of meaning
     Breadth of life
24   The eight domains
26   Next steps
     Free to talk
     Summary justice
     See the whole picture
     In defiance of compliance
     Call in the specialists?
     Communal sense
     Decentralisation nation
42   Plea for fairer funding

                                                         he Cambridge Primary        conclusions together with
    What the Review                                      Review is an                recommendations for both
    investigated                                         independent enquiry         national policy and the work of
                                                         into the condition and      schools and other relevant
  The 3 overarching perspectives                future of primary education in       agencies.’
• Children and childhood today                  England. It is based at the             The Review has stuck closely
• The society and world in which children are   University of Cambridge,             to this remit. Its scope is
  growing up                                    supported by Esmée Fairbairn         exceptionally broad, and is
• The condition and future of primary           Foundation and directed by           defined in terms of 10 themes
  education                                     Professor Robin Alexander.           and three overarching
                                                After nearly three years of          perspectives (see box). In
    The 10 educational themes                   planning and consultation the        relation to each of these,
• Purposes and values                           Review was launched in October       evidence is combined with
• Learning and teaching                         2006. Between October 2007           vision. That is to say, the Review
• Curriculum and assessment                     and February 2009 the Review         has investigated how and how
• Quality and standards                         published 31 interim reports: an     well the system currently works
• Diversity and inclusion                       account of its regional              and how it should change in
• Settings and professionals                    community soundings, 28              order to meet the needs of
• Parenting, caring and educating               specially-commissioned surveys       children and society during the
• Children’s lives beyond the school            of relevant research and a two-      coming decades.
• Structures and phases                         volume report on the primary            The mix of evidence and
• Funding, governance and policy                curriculum. Now, exactly three       methods has been carefully
                                                years after its launch, Routledge    judged: invited opinion is
                                                is publishing the Review’s final     balanced by published research;
    Vital statistics                            report and recommendations           data has been collected from
                                                (see back cover for order details)   both official and independent
    The balance of evidence                     and the Review enters its final      sources; formal written
• Submissions (written): 1,052 (shortest 1      phase.                               submissions from national
    page, longest 300 pages)                       The Review was required by        organisations are contrasted
• Soundings (regional): 87 meetings in 9        its remit to ‘identify the           with open-ended discussions
    regional locations                          purposes which the primary           with those at the front line,
• Soundings (national): 150 meetings and        phase of education should serve,     including children, teachers,
    other events                                the values which it should           parents and a wide range of
• Surveys of published research: 28,            espouse, the curriculum and          community representatives.
    evaluating over 3,000 published sources     learning environment which it           One way or another, many
• Searches of official data: not quantifiable   should provide, and the              thousands of people have been
• Emails received: thousands                    conditions which are necessary       involved, but the final report is
• Sources cited in the reports: 4,000+          in order to ensure both that         due primarily to the efforts of
                                                these are of the highest and         ‘the Cambridge Primary Review
    Spreading the word                          most consistent quality possible,    100’ – the core team at
• Interim reports: 31                           and that they address the needs      Cambridge led by Robin
• Briefing papers: 39                           of children and society over the     Alexander, the advisory
• Media releases: 14                            coming decades’; to ‘pay close       committee chaired by Gillian
• Media articles by the Review: 10              regard to national and               Pugh, the management group
• Media articles about the Review: hundreds     international evidence from          chaired on behalf of Esmée
• Final report: 1                               research, inspection and other       Fairbairn Foundation by Hilary
• Final report companion volume: 1              sources ... to seek the advice of    Hodgson, the 66 academic
• Final report booklet: 1                       expert advisers and witnesses,       consultants from more than 20
                                                and invite submissions and take      university departments who
                                                soundings from a wide range of       prepared the research surveys,
                                                interested agencies and              and of course the final report’s
                                                individuals, both statutory and      14 authors.
                                                non-statutory;’ and finally to
                                                ‘publish both interim findings
                                                and a final report combining
                                                evidence, analysis and

4                                                             T O O R D E R T H E C A M B R I D G E P R I M A RY

What is and what
could be
                                   his booklet announces     its schools. But today’s Britain is diverse, divided and
                                   the publication of        unsure of itself. Some argue the virtues of multi-
                                   Children, their world,    culturalism. Others deplore the loss of social cohesion,
                                   their education: final    collective identity and common values. Meanwhile,
                          report and recommendations of      the gaps in wealth, well-being and educational
                          the Cambridge Primary Review.      attainment are far wider than in many other countries,
                          The Review is the first            and a significant minority of children and families
                          comprehensive investigation        remain at the margins. It’s time to look again at the
                          of English primary education       relationship between education and social progress.
                          in 40 years and this booklet       • Globalisation brings unprecedented opportunities,
Robin Alexander           provides a glimpse of its many     but there are darker visions. Many are daily denied
Director of the           findings and insights. We hope     their basic human rights and suffer extreme poverty,
Cambridge Primary         you will read it, enjoy it and     violence and oppression. As if that were not enough,
Review                    become intrigued to find out       global warming may well make this the make-or-
                          more (see back cover).             break century for humanity as a whole. What, in such
  The final report marks the latest stage in a journey       a world, and in the context of the UN Millennium
which so far has taken nearly six years: three for           Development Goal of universalising primary
consultation and planning, three more for collecting         education by 2015, is primary education for?
and analysing evidence and publishing the 31 interim         • England’s primary schools are now part of a
reports, and now a period whose length we daren’t            complex structure linking education with health,
predict but which is probably the most important of          welfare and childcare, and children’s primary
all. For once the final report and recommendations are       schooling with what precedes and follows it. Or, at
published we hope that they will be discussed and            least, that’s the intention: but how coherent is the
acted on with the seriousness we believe they deserve.       system really?
If that sounds presumptuous then readers should              • Primary education suffers more than its fair share of
understand that the voices which the final report            scaremongering and hyperbole, not to mention
distills are those not so much of its 14 authors as of the   deliberate myth-making. Standards are rising /
thousands who gave evidence to the Review in the             standards are plummeting ... Today’s teachers are the
hope that it would make a difference, and the                best ever / teachers merely follow the latest gimmick ...
thousands more whose published work enabled us to            Schools neglect the 3Rs / schools concentrate on the
set witnesses’ views in the larger context of national       3Rs to the detriment of everything else ... Children’s
and international policy and research.                       behaviour is deteriorating / children are better behaved
                                                             than ever... Today’s problems are all the fault of the
Why the Cambridge Primary Review?                            1970s progressive ideologues / the 1970s were the
When we started on the journey we made the case              golden age of primary education ... And so on.
thus:                                                        Wherein lies the truth? And isn’t it time to move on
• England’s primary schools have experienced two             from the populism, polarisation and name-calling
decades of continuous yet piecemeal reform about             which for too long have supplanted real educational
which considerable claims have been made, especially         debate and progress? Children deserve better than this
in relation to educational standards. However, the           from the nation’s leaders and shapers of opinion.
claims are not universally accepted and, properly            • Despite all this, and the considerable advances in
assessed, the evidence may tell another story. In any        research, there has been no comprehensive
event, the benefits and costs of all this activity need to   investigation of English primary education since the
be evaluated.                                                Plowden enquiry of 1967. The Cambridge Primary
• Our system of primary education was created to             Review was devised in order to make good this
reflect a particular view of society and the place within    deficiency, to ask and answer the necessary questions
it of the distinctly unprivileged masses who were to fill    without fear or favour.

R E V I E W F I NA L R E P O RT, S E E BAC K C OV E R                                                               5

What is in the final report?                                from then on, the interim reports influenced public
Others will judge whether the Review has succeeded          discussion of childhood, testing, the curriculum,
in tackling the tasks and meeting the aspirations           standards, policy and much else, and without doubt
above. It has certainly done its best. The 640-page final   raised the profile of primary education. The effects are
report contains 24 chapters. The first two set the          also evident in recent policy statements on
scene, reminding us how in certain key respects             assessment, the national strategies, the curriculum
contemporary primary education remains tied to its          and the balance of central and professional control.
Victorian roots, belying the sheen of modernisation.           But the Cambridge Primary Review is not an official
Chapters 4-10 examine research evidence, policy and         commission so its reports don’t stand or fall on how
witness views on children’s development and learning,       they are received by the government which happens
their upbringing and lives outside school, their needs      to be in office on the day that they are published. The
and their aspirations in a fast-changing world.             Review is for all who are interested in primary
Chapters 11-18 explore what goes on in primary              education, practitioners no less than policy-makers,
schools, from the formative early years to aims, values,    parents and children as well as professionals.
curriculum, pedagogy, assessment, standards and             Presented with the Review’s findings they can make
school organisation. Chapters 19-23 deal with the           up their own minds. And the choice is not merely
system as a whole: its ages, stages and transitions; the    between outright acceptance and rejection: there is
relationships between schools and other agencies;           plenty of room here for the adaptation of the Review’s
teachers, training, leadership and workforce reform;        ideas and proposals, and on many matters we
funding, governance and policy. Chapter 24 pulls            explicitly invite further discussion and research.
everything together with 78 formal conclusions and             Nor are the recommendations all that matters.
75 recommendations for policy and practice.                 Without the analysis and argument in the final report’s
                                                            first 23 chapters there can be no recommendations in
What happens next?                                          chapter 24; and when, for the moment, the
The Cambridge Primary Review final report will be           recommendations have been duly responded to, the
formally launched in London at an event hosted by the       analysis and ideas remain for discussion and debate.
RSA ( Next, there will be 14         By keeping the discussion alive we can be sure that the
regional conferences for professional leaders in            recommendations stay alive too. It took 40 years for
schools, local authorities, teacher training and            the 1967 Plowden proposals on nursery provision to
research. These are being managed on our behalf by          come close to fruition. On the other hand, the 1931
Teachers First and will take place between November         Hadow report’s recommendation on the primary/
2009 and February 2010 in Birmingham, Bristol,              secondary funding differential is still not implemented
Cambridge, Exeter, London, Manchester, Newcastle-           78 years on, even though there is widespread
upon-Tyne, Norwich, Nottingham, Preston,                    agreement that it should be. Meanwhile, several 19th-
Southampton and York (        century legacies survive unquestioned (though not by
The final conference, back in Cambridge, will bring         the Cambridge Review): England’s exceptionally early
together invited representatives of leading national        start to formal schooling; the separation of infant/KS1
organisations to hear about issues raised during the        and junior/KS2; the ‘cheap but efficient’ generalist
regional conferences, and to look to the future. There      class teacher system; the sharp divide between the
will also be events in other countries including            curriculum ‘basics’ and the rest; the view of those
Australia, Hong Kong, Singapore and the United States.      ‘basics’ as the 3Rs and little else. Old habits of thought
   We have often been asked, ‘What happens if               die hard. We may have to be patient.
government ignores or rejects the Review’s findings            Taking the same long view we would also caution
and recommendations?’ While we would be                     against the seductive appeal of dramatic policy
disappointed by such an outcome, as, surely, would          gestures, especially just before a general election. For
the thousands who contributed to the Review in the          example, the recently-announced intention to wind up
hope that by finding                                                                        the previously
common cause they                                                                           impregnable primary
might make a difference,
it’s worth noting that the
Review began to make an
                               The Review is for the longer
                                     not the next election...
                                                                                            national strategy and the
                                                                                            government’s promise to
                                                                                            replace centrally-directed
impact as soon as its first
interim report hit the            It is for all who invest daily,                           reform by school self-
                                                                                            determination, about
headlines in October
2007. Assisted by
                                  deeply and for life in this                               both of which the
                                                                                            Cambridge Review’s
extensive media coverage          vital phase of education                                  witnesses had a great deal

6                                                           T O O R D E R T H E C A M B R I D G E P R I M A RY
to say, might suggest that in these particulars the          but in good heart. They are highly valued by children
Review has been overtaken by events.                         and parents and in general are doing a good job. They
   However, though many have applauded ‘the end of           do not neglect and never have neglected the 3Rs, and
centralisation’, history renders their applause              those who regularly make this claim are either
premature. The end of centralisation was promised            careless with the facts or are knowingly fostering a
when the government’s programme of public service            calumny. The debates about starting ages, aims,
reform was re-launched in 2001, yet the Review’s             curriculum, pedagogy, standards, expertise and
evidence shows that by 2008-9 little had changed. A          staffing remain open, as they should, but the condition
process which has concentrated so much power at the          of the system is sound. Indeed, as was noted by many
centre, and over the course of two decades has so            witnesses, primary schools may be the one point of
decisively re-configured the relationship between            stability and positive values in a world where
government and teachers, cannot be unpicked at the           everything else is changing and uncertain. For many,
drop of a white paper. In 2009, the national strategies      school is the centre that holds when things fall apart.’
and their attendant assumptions are embedded in the             With the generous support of Esmée Fairbairn
Training and Development Agency’s professional               Foundation, our sponsors, we are sending this booklet
standards and teacher training requirements. They            to every school, local authority and teacher-training
dictate Ofsted inspection criteria and procedures. They      provider in the UK, to every MP and member of the
provide the ‘school improvement’ script for local            House of Lords, to members of the Scottish Parliament
authority advisers and indeed it is national strategy        and Welsh and Northern Ireland Assemblies, and to
funding which keeps many such people in work.                the many organisations and individuals whose
Centrally-determined versions of teaching, flawed            evidence has been so essential to the Review’s task of
though the research evidence shows some of them to           investigating the condition and future of English
be, are all that many younger teachers know – and            primary education. Self-evidently, the booklet can
they are tomorrow’s school leaders.                          offer no more than a taste of the more solid fare
   For now though, politics are abjured. The                 contained in the 640 pages of the Cambridge Primary
Cambridge Primary Review is for the longer term, not         Review’s final report. Yet we trust that the booklet
the next election; and as an exercise in democratic          conveys a sufficient sense of the important issues
engagement as well as empirical and visionary effort         treated by the Review to impel readers to get hold of
its final report is not just for the transient architects    the final report and reflect on its arguments, findings
and agents of policy. It is for all who invest daily,        and implications – and then tell us and others what
deeply and for life in this vital phase of education.        they think. Read the report, talk about it to colleagues,
Especially it is for children, parents and teachers. They,   email, write to your
we trust, can take comfort from this conclusion in the       MP, attend one of the regional or national conferences,
final report:                                                or in other ways help us to jolt the primary education
   ‘What we must emphatically report is that England’s       debate out of the rut of tired sloganising and cartoon
primary schools appear to be under intense pressure          knockabout in which for too long it has been stuck.

                              Editors                        Photographs and artwork       Published October 2009 by
                              Diane Hofkins                  Our thanks go to              the Cambridge Primary
                              Stephanie Northen              Brentside primary             Review, University of
                                                             Ealing, London                Cambridge Faculty of
                              Design                         and                           Education, 184 Hills Road,
                              DaneDesign                     Great Dunham primary          Cambridge, CB2 8PQ, UK.
                                                             Norfolk, for their help.      © 2009 University of
                              Production editor                                            Cambridge. All rights
                              Stephanie Northen              Front cover                   reserved.
                                                             Stockbyte/Getty Images        British Library Cataloguing in
                              Editorial adviser              Inside front                  Publication Data
                              Robin Alexander                Swirl, Masooma Khan, age 5    A catalogue record for this
                                                             Inside back                   publication is available from
                              Printing                       The Puzzle, Asma Sharif,      the British Library.
                              Labute, Cambridge              age 10
                                                                                           ISBN 978-1-906478-33-9

R E V I E W F I NA L R E P O RT, S E E BAC K C OV E R                                                                       7

A glimpse of the future...
So what has the most wide-ranging review of primary education in 40 years proposed?

          he Review began its work
          against a backdrop of public   Narrow the gap                            Towards a new curriculum
          anxiety about the state of     (pages 14-15)                             (pages 22-27)
          childhood, education and
society. It quickly became clear,        • Maintain the focus of policy on         • Introduce a new primary
though, that while primary schools       reducing underachievement.                curriculum which: is firmly aligned
are under intense pressure, they are     • Intervene quickly and effectively to    with the Review’s aims, values and
in good heart. Highly valued by          help disadvantaged and vulnerable         principles; guarantees children’s
children and parents, for some they      children.                                 entitlement to breadth, depth and
are the one point of stability and       • Give the highest priority to            balance, and to high standards in all
positive values in a world where         eliminating child poverty.                the proposed domains, not just some
everything else is uncertain.                                                      of them; ensures that language,
   There are still important debates                                               literacy and oracy are paramount;
to be had and changes which could        Review special needs                      combines a national framework with
make a big difference to many            (page 15)                                 a locally-devised community
children’s life chances. Too often, as                                             curriculum;
the Review’s evidence has shown,         • Institute a full review of special      • Wind up the primary national
policy has been introduced without       educational needs which re-assesses       strategy and re-integrate literacy and
proper evaluation of previous            its definitions, structures, procedures   numeracy with the rest of the
initiatives or on the basis of faulty    and provision.                            curriculum.
diagnosis of the problem being
   The Review’s final report contains    New structures for                        A pedagogy of evidence
75 recommendations, drawn from           early years and primary                   and principle
detailed analysis of the evidence and
based on a comprehensive set of          education                                 (pages 28-29)
conclusions. The list below provides     (pages 16-17)                             • Work towards a pedagogy of
signposts to the main                                                              repertoire rather than recipe, and of
recommendations, but not the detail.     • Strengthen and extend early             principle rather than prescription.
For the full set of conclusions and      learning provision.                       • Ensure that teaching and learning
recommendations see the final            • Extend the foundation stage to          are properly informed by research.
report, chapter 24                       age six.                                  • Uphold the principle that it is not
                                         • Replace key stages 1 and 2 by a         for government, government
                                         single primary phase from six to 11.      agencies or local authorities to tell
                                         • Examine feasibility of raising          teachers how to teach.
Respect and support                      school starting age to six.               • Avoid pedagogical fads and
childhood                                                                          fashions and act instead on those
(pages 12-13)                                                                      aspects of learning and teaching,
                                         Start with aims                           notably spoken language, where
• Respect children’s experiences,        (pages 18-21)                             research evidence converges.
voices and rights, and adopt the
UN Convention on the Rights of           • Establish a new and coherent set of
the Child as the framework for           aims, values and principles for 21st-     Reform assessment
policy.                                  century primary education, in             (pages 30-31)
• Build on new research on               addition to any wider aims for the
children’s development, learning,        system as a whole.                        • Retain summative pupil assessment
needs and capabilities.                  • Make the aims drive rather than         at the end of the primary phase, but
• Ensure that teacher education is       follow curriculum, teaching,              uncouple assessment for accountability
fully informed by these perspectives.    assessment, schools and policy.           from assessment for learning.

8                                                              T O O R D E R T H E C A M B R I D G E P R I M A RY
• Replace current KS2 literacy/                                                   • Strengthen mutual professional
numeracy Sats by a system which           Review staffing                         support through clustering,
assesses and reports on children’s        (pages 36-37)                           federation, all-through schools and
achievement in all areas of their                                                 the pooling of expertise.
learning, with minimum of                 • Undertake a full review of current
disruption.                               and projected primary school
• Monitor school and system               staffing.                               Reform the policy process
performance through sample testing.       • Ensure that schools have the          (pages 40-41)
• Make greater use of teacher             teacher numbers, expertise and
assessment.                               flexibility to deliver high standards   • Re-balance the responsibilities of
                                          across the full curriculum.             the Department for Children, Schools
                                          • Develop and deploy alternative        and Families, local authorities and
Strengthen accountability,                primary teaching roles to the           schools.
                                          generalist class teacher without        • Replace top-down control and
redefine standards                        losing its benefits.                    prescription by professional
(pages 32-33)                             • Clarify and properly support the      empowerment, mutual
• Move forward from debating              role of teaching assistant.             accountability and respect for
whether schools and teachers should                                               research evidence and professional
be accountable (they should) and                                                  experience.
concentrate instead on how.               Leadership for learning                 • Make good the wider democratic
• Redefine primary education              (page 37)                               deficit.
standards as the quality of learning
in all curriculum domains,                • Share leadership in order to
knowledge and skills to which             nurture the capacities of teachers      A new educational
children are entitled, not just some of   and emphasise schools’ core tasks       discourse
them.                                     and relationship with their             (pages 40-41)
• Develop a model of school               communities.
inspection which is in line with the      • Provide time and support for heads    • Abandon the discourses of
proposed aims and principles.             to do the job for which they are most   derision, false dichotomy and myth
                                          needed – leading learning.              and strive to ensure that the
                                                                                  education debate exemplifies rather
Reform teacher education                                                          than negates what education should
(pages 34-35)                             Schools for the future                  be about.
                                          (pages 38-39)
• Align teacher education with the
Review’s aims, curriculum and             • Take an innovative approach to        Reform school funding
approaches to pedagogy.                   school design and timetabling which     (page 42)
• Refocus initial training on             marries design and function and
childhood, learning, teaching,            properly reflects the proposed aims.    • Eliminate the primary/secondary
curriculum and subject knowledge.                                                 funding differential.
• Examine alternative ITT routes for                                              • Ensure that primary school funding
different primary teaching roles.         Schools for the community               is determined by educational and
• Replace the current TDA                 (page 38)                               curricular needs.
professional standards by a                                                       • Devise and cost alternative models
framework validated by professional       • Build on recent initiatives           of curriculum/needs led primary
development research and pupil            encouraging multi-agency working,       school staffing.
learning outcomes.                        and increase support for schools to     • Set increased costs against savings
• Balance support for inexperienced       help them ensure the growing range      from terminating the primary
and less able teachers with freedom       of children’s services professionals    national strategy (PNS), transferring
and respect for the experienced and       work in partnership with each other     its budget to schools’ control and
talented.                                 and with parents.                       reducing national infrastructure.

     The Review’s final report contains 75 recommendations drawn
     from detailed analysis of the evidence
R E V I E W F I NA L R E P O RT, S E E BAC K C OV E R                                                                    9

                             Plus ça change?
                                   What has shaped primary education?                             used what HMI called ‘didactic’ methods. Nevertheless,
                                                                                                  the progressive myth persisted, in part because of well-
                                   How did the system we have today come                          publicised extreme cases such as William Tyndale junior
                                   to be? Was it inevitable?                                      school in Islington (see opposite).
                                                                                                     Prime Minister James Callaghan’s 1967 Ruskin College
                                                                                                  speech marked politicians’ first hesitant steps into the

                                                    e take for granted the primacy of the 3Rs,    ‘secret garden’ of the primary curriculum. Callaghan
                                                    the range of subjects and the class-teacher argued that not just teachers and parents but also
                                                    system, but these are the legacy of the       government and industry ‘have an important part to play
                                                    Victorian elementary school, devised to       in formulating and expressing the purpose of education
                                   prepare the poor for their ‘station’ in life.                  and the standards that we need’.
                                      In many ways, today’s primary schools would not look           The 1978 HMI report shows why politicians came to
                                   unfamiliar to the Victorians. Even some of the anxieties       see a need for a national curriculum, national assessment
                                   are similar. As Matthew Arnold, the eminent poet and           and a uniform inspection system. While all primary
                                   schools inspector, reported in 1867: ‘The mode of              schools taught English and mathematics, there was
                                   teaching in the primary schools has certainly fallen off in considerable inconsistency from school to school when
                                   intelligence, spirit and inventiveness. It could not well be   it came to what are now the other foundation subjects.
                          a country where everyone is prone to rely       Strikingly, HMI reported a strong association between a
                                   too much on mechanical processes and too little on             broad curriculum and high standards in the ‘basics’ – a
                                   intelligence.’                                                 message repeated many times since.
                                      In other ways, change has been profound and swift,             From then on, moves to intervene in matters
                                   especially since the days of this Review’s predecessor, the previously accepted as the professional preserve of
                                   1967 Plowden Report.                                           teachers increased in speed and quantity. In 1987 there
                                      Plowden advocated more experiential learning,               was a sudden shift in the government’s approach to
                                   increased parental involvement, universal pre-school           education policy-making; political caution was replaced
                                   education and social priority zones to boost                   by assertion, and guidance by prescription.
                                   opportunities for the less privileged.                            The centrepiece of Kenneth Baker’s Education Reform
                                      Despite Plowden’s recommendations, and later reports Bill was a highly detailed national curriculum. The 1988
                                   such as 1994’s Start Right, early childhood education          Education Reform Act massively increased the Secretary
                                   received little attention or funding from central              of State’s powers. This centralisation became even more
                                   government until the late 1990s. In the dying days of the      marked with the introduction of mandatory testing in
                                   last Conservative                                                                              Years 2 and 6, and the
                                   government, the nursery                                                                        publication of test results;
                                   voucher scheme to                                                                              and more marked still
                                   guarantee a place for every                                                                    when New Labour was
                                   four-year-old lasted only a                                                                    elected in 1997.
                                   year. Labour increased                                                                            Though the ERA
                                   guidance, regulations and                                                                      proscribed the Secretary of
                                   targets for the under-fives,                                                                   State from prescribing
                                   and extended the                                                                               teaching methods, the
                                   guarantee to age three.                                                                        national literacy (1998)
                                      The commonly held                                                                           and numeracy (1999)
                                   belief that after 1967                                                                         strategies did this by
                                   primary schools were                                                                           stealth, pressuring schools
Photo: East Riding Media library

                                   swept by a tide of                                                                             to use favoured
                                   progressivism is untrue. In                                                                    approaches through
                                   its 1978 primary survey,                                                                       government direction,
                                   HMI reported that only 5                                                                       local authority pressure
                                   per cent of classrooms                                                                         and Ofsted inspection.
                                   were fully ‘exploratory’         Victorian day: 21st-century schools are still influenced      Meanwhile, the demands
                                   and three-quarters still         by some elements of 19th-century education structure          of the national curriculum

                                   10                                                             T O O R D E R T H E C A M B R I D G E P R I M A RY
English primary education: some policy milestones 1944–2009

1944 ‘Butler’ Education Act establishes              major HMI survey, identifies serious          fundamentally unchanged.
     primary education in law.                       inconsistencies in curriculum                 Foundation stage for three- to five-
1965 First BEd courses introduced:                   breadth, balance, quality and                 year olds is introduced with a
     beginning of drive to make                      management across schools.                    curriculum organised into six areas
     teaching a graduate profession.           1988 Warnock Report, Special                        of learning.
1967 Plowden Report recommends: full                 Educational Needs: the education of    2003   Every Child Matters marks
     parental participation and                      handicapped children, encourages              significant change to services to
     parental choice of schools;                     integration.                                  secure the well-being of all children
     educational priority areas to             1988 Education Reform Act introduces                from birth to 19, but especially
     combat social disadvantage; co-                 national curriculum and heralds               those at risk of abuse. Local
     operation between educational,                  national tests at 7, 11 and 14. New           authorities to provide ‘joined-up’
     health and social services;                     finance arrangements give schools             education and care with multi-
     universal nursery education for                 new freedoms.                                 agency co-ordination and extended
     three- to five-year-olds; end of 11-      1991 First full run of key stage 1 Sats.            schools.
     plus; teaching to use a                         Results published in LEA league               Excellence and Enjoyment, the new
     combination of individual, group                tables.                                       primary strategy manifesto, claims
     and whole-class work; phasing out         1992 ‘Three wise men’ report on 7-11                to encourage creativity and fun
     streaming; introduction of                      education refocusses attention on             while securing standards. It
     teachers’ ‘aides’ and training for              the character and quality of primary          consolidates the literacy and
     classroom assistants.                           school pedagogy.                              numeracy strategies.
1974 Establishment of Assessment of                  Ofsted (Office for Standards in        2006   Review of the teaching of early
     Performance Unit marks first                    Education) replaces HMI.                      reading, a government-
     attempt systematically to monitor         1993 NUT and NASUWT boycott the                     commissioned report from Jim
     national standards (in languages,               national curriculum tests.                    Rose, seeks to resolve debate about
     English, maths, science, aesthetic        1997 Excellence in Schools White Paper              the place of phonics in the teaching
     development, personal and social                sets out New Labour’s main                    of reading.
     development, and physical                       education policies, including          2007   Children’s Plan outlines a 10-year
     development) at 11 and 14.                      national literacy and numeracy                strategy ‘to make England the best
1975 Bullock Report into the teaching of             strategies and 2002 targets.                  place in the world for children and
     English undermines claims that            1998 General Teaching Council (GTC) for             young people’. Sets new targets and
     schools are concentrating on                    England and Wales is established.             softens government line on testing.
     ‘creativity’ at the expense of ‘basics’         Qualifications for headteachers        2008   Early years foundation stage brings
     and argues for whole language                   introduced.                                   together guidance and standards for
     approach to literacy.                           Sure Start established to support             education and daycare for children
1976 Rumours of anarchy at William                   parents of under-threes in areas of           from birth to five.
     Tyndale junior school fuel right-               high need.                             2009   The government’s Rose review of
     wing claims about rampant                 1999 Early learning goals published to              the curriculum proposes that
     progressivism and lead to the 1976              guide under-fives practitioners.              traditional subjects are combined
     Auld inquiry.                             2000 National curriculum is slimmed                 within six areas of learning. To be
1978 Primary Education in England, a                 down but otherwise                            implemented in 2011.

and the pressure of tests and tables had led to growing                 This meant most children were now expected to attain
uniformity in classrooms across the country. More time               a level originally set as an average.
than ever was devoted to reading, writing and number                    In contrast to the pre-1988 era, when government
(especially the elements tested), with less emphasis on              intervention in classroom life was minimal, policies are
other subjects.                                                      now imposed on teachers at a rate which has made their
    Within a few days of the 1997 election, the new                  assimilation and implementation nearly impossible. By
government set ambitious targets for 2002 (not reached               one count, between 1996 and 2004 government and
till 2008): that in literacy 80 per cent and in numeracy 75          national agencies issued 459 documents just on literacy
per cent of 11-year-olds should achieve at least level 4 in          teaching.
the national tests.                                                     That’s more than one every week for eight years.

R E V I E W F I NA L R E P O RT, S E E BAC K C OV E R                                                                                11

                       Age of empowerment
                       Listen to children, not what the
                       media say about them

                                 hildren today are portrayed as
                                 vulnerable innocents – and as
                                 celebrity-obsessed couch-
                                 potatoes. Their teachers are
                       reported as struggling with hazards they
                       cannot contain, standards they cannot
                       uphold and pupils they cannot control.
                          For most children – and teachers –
                       neither perception is accurate. A minority
                       of young people do endure blighted lives
                       but the cause is not the celebrity culture
                       so much as poverty and prejudice (see
                       page 14). For the rest, the sense of a ‘crisis’
                       of modern childhood has been overstated.
                       In terms of health, living standards, public
                       services, educational opportunity, and           On the up: childhood is a time to be relished for its own sake
                       access to information and entertainment
                       the majority have never had it so good. Despite the               Review drew on the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of
                       media’s erroneous insistence that schools neglect the             the Child, expressing concern that schools could do more
                       3Rs, children in England are perfectly capable of counting to foster children’s competence, sense of responsibility
                       their blessings. They were the most upbeat contributors           and self-respect. The UN convention should shape all
                       to the Review, their optimism in marked contrast to the           policies relating to young people, says the Review. The
                       pessimism expressed by parents – a perennial tendency             government has correctly put children at the centre of its
                       of the older generation. Among their assets are their             policies though the temptation to try to control the nature
                       primary schools, shown to be largely happy places that            of childhood must be resisted. Childhood is a valuable
                       unfailingly seek to celebrate the positive.                       time in its own right. It is a time to be relished, where the
                          Of course, valid concerns remain – about family                priority must be to strike the right balance between the
                       breakdown, obesity, poor mental health, and lack of               child’s current needs and building the foundations for
                       space to play. But with so much bleak reporting of                future education and employment.
                       childhood, it is important to stress the positive. A recent          At home, as at school, young people do not want to be
                       gain is the growing respect for children as agents,               over-protected, preferring some independence and
                       valuable people and citizens in their own right. Children         choice in relation to their family life. Home is valued as a
                       who feel empowered are more likely to be better and               private place, one where school does not encroach. Yet
                       happier learners. In recognition of this, the power               children spend longer in school and school-related
                       relations in many schools are beginning to shift, but the         settings than they did 10 years ago, and when they get
                       picture is still mixed and children are far from uniformly        home they face what is called homework, but is in fact
                       regarded as young citizens                                                                          more school work. Many
                       with important and                                                                                  adults worry about the
                       insightful things to say          Key points                                                        effect of this creeping
                       about their education. The                                                                          ‘scholarisation’ on
                       Review says that the            • Respect children’s experience, voices and rights. Engage          children’s well-being. Some
                       ‘children’s voice’                them actively and directly in decisions that affect their         say simply that children
Photo: David Newnham

                       movement is not a fad, but        learning.                                                         have other worthwhile
                       a trend that needs to           • Build on new research on children’s development, learning,        things to do. The desire to
                       become the way of school          needs and capabilities.                                           keep family and academic
                       life (see box).                 • Ensure that teacher education is fully informed by these          life separate leads many
                          Many contributors to the       perspectives.                                                     children to regard parental

                       12                                                              T O O R D E R T H E C A M B R I D G E P R I M A RY
involvement in school with unease. Some are wary of a
double dose of control; others worry that their parents                   Cognitive
will not meet with teachers’ approval.
  However, while children do not want school to have
an open door into home, most are keen that bridges
between the two are maintained. And it is vital, says the

Review, that the traffic along these bridges flows both                         orget the idea that children’s development
ways. Children take valuable understanding and skill                            advances in fixed stages. Forget right-brain versus
into school as well as away from it. Many help out at                           left-brain functions. Forget all those learning
home and are proud of what they can do in terms of                        ‘styles’. Our understanding of children’s cognitive
looking after themselves and others. Home is where                        development and learning has grown hugely in recent
they first play with toys and friends, and where they first               years and schools can build on this research.
learn about relationships, moral codes and how to be                         Consider these key findings. First, babies and young
healthy. Schools will benefit greatly from building on                    children learn, think and reason in all the same ways as
the fact that even their youngest children are not                        adults – what they lack is the experience to make sense of
blank slates.                                                             what they find. Second, their learning depends on the
                                                                          development of multi-sensory networks of neurons
                                                                          distributed across the whole brain. In other words,
Children’s voice:                                                         watching an ice cube melt may stimulate neurons in
what a headteacher says                                                   networks concerned with seeing, deducing, remembering
                                                                          and moving. Third, children learn from every experience,
    Our whole approach to             contribute. And because of that     their brains distributing the information across these
     teaching and learning is         you don’t get power conflicts.      networks, with stronger ‘representations’ of what the
about shared dialogue,                   Instead of having a school       experiences have in common. Fourth, the biological,
decision making and                   council, we have a weekly           social, emotional and intellectual aspects of learning are
collaboration. Our children           democratic meeting which            inextricably interwoven. Fifth, even the most basic
are actively involved right           takes place with all of our         learning relies on effective linguistic and social interaction
from foundation in planning           children from Year 1 upwards        with parents, teachers and other children. And finally,
lessons, they contribute to           in mixed-age groups with            children, like most humans, tend to interpret the world in
assessment and review what            adults as equal members of the      line with their own explanations as to why things happen.
they are doing, and they              groups. These meetings                 Teachers who want to exploit these developments
choose the tasks they do in           happen every week so there is       enhance children’s learning with collaboration, challenge
lessons. So in terms of               a regular reliable space where      and purposeful talk. The ways in which teachers talk to
teaching and learning we are          you can formally bring things       children, ideally amplifying and elaborating their
aiming to develop dialogue –          up that you think might be          comments, can enhance learning, memory, understanding
genuine listening and                 important ... and that applies to   and motivation. Providing a diversity of experiences
responding – between                  everyone. Through this              strengthens children’s multi-sensory neural networks and
children and adults every step        structure they can get to know      also helps them modify their understanding of the world
of the way.                           each other – and then you get a     and become better at reflecting on their observations.
    For teachers too it’s about       shared empathy and a shared            Creative activities, the decline of which concerned
building a culture of                 understanding.                      many witnesses to the Review, raise the quality and
participation, about them                When I first came here the       capacity of children’s thinking, perseverance and
feeling valued for who they are.      children were described by          problem-solving abilities, as well as fuelling their
Sometimes leadership teams            Ofsted as unteachable. Now          imaginations. Children are very competent and capable
say “right, yeah, now we’ve got       their behaviour is officially       learners – given the right linguistic and social
to listen to the kids ...” and then   outstanding. A lot of that is to    environment. We are now better informed than ever as to
the adults say “well, hang on a       do with tolerance and               what that environment should contain.
moment, it would be quite nice        understanding. We talk about
if someone listened to me once
in a while”. This is much more
about a shared responsibility
                                      community cohesion, well it
                                      needs to begin in the school
                                      and there are plenty of
                                                                           Teachers who want to exploit
                                                                                 developments enhance
for making learning irresistible.
There is a very exciting
                                      schools where it doesn’t.
                                                                              children’s learning with
atmosphere around the place
that says anything is possible
                                      Alison Peacock is head of the
                                      Wroxham School, Potters Bar,
                                                                              collaboration, challenge and
and everybody feels they can          Hertfordshire                           purposeful talk
R E V I E W F I NA L R E P O RT, S E E BAC K C OV E R                                                                               13

Divided England
Schools can do more to help the millions of children growing up poor in a land of plenty

          he nation’s children have
          much to contend with – at
          least in the opinion of adults.
          Family breakdown, an overly
materialistic society and unhealthy
lifestyles all threaten their well-being.
Yet for roughly three-quarters of
children the perceived risks are
greater than the real ones. This is not
the case for the rest. More than three
million children face the gravest
threat – poverty. And their numbers
are increasing.
   Eliminating child poverty has been
commendably high on the
government agenda. But it must
become the highest priority if there is
to be an end to the shameful situation
in which a greater proportion of children are growing up             unstimulating, linguistically barren environment has
poor in this country than in many other wealthy nations.             been shown to affect children’s pre-frontal cortex, an area
This scandal of divided England was an acute concern to              of the brain associated with problem-solving. Deprived
the Review’s witnesses. The feeling distilled from the 87            three-year-olds can be up to a year behind their luckier
community consultations held round the country, was                  peers. Deprived 16-year-olds are a third less likely than
that: ‘The contrasts in children’s lives were thought to be          those from comfortable homes to get five A*-C grade
massive and widening. Those born into familial stability             GCSEs. With social mobility declining in England, the
and economic comfort fare well, many exceptionally so.               chances of these children escaping poverty and breaking
For others, deprivation is profound and multifaceted:                the chain that transmits disadvantage down the
economic, emotional, linguistic, cultural. Our community             generations are reducing.
witnesses believed that the accident of birth profoundly                 Poverty creates terrible gaps, ones that open early and
and often cruelly divides the nation’s children.’                    get harder to close as the years go by. Often these gaps are
   The many far-reaching effects of this ‘accident of birth’         compounded by other factors including prejudice.
are well known. Poverty shortens and diminishes lives. A             Children in England can be marginalised by their religion,
deprived child is more likely to suffer from a chronic or            race, disability, even their gender. ‘Deficit thinking’ on the
mental illness, to become obese, to die in an accident.              part of some teachers plays a part in the under-
Poverty puts families under great strain. Parents, if they           achievement of black, Bangladeshi and Pakistani
have jobs, are likely to be under great pressure, working            children, white working-class boys, and Travellers.
long and anti-social hours. If their relationship crumbles,          Similarly, too many families are still regarded as ‘hard to
the effect of poverty combined with family breakdown                 reach’. Discriminated against within education as well as
can be profound.                                                     within society, the negative label can become a self-
   The bleak statistics on England’s ‘long tail of                   fulfilling prophecy. Well-intentioned attempts to
underachievement’ are                                                                                 categorise difference in
evidence of poverty’s                                                                                 what is now a very diverse
impact on learning.                 Key points                                                        country can perpetuate
Neuroscience is beginning                                                                             division, just as services
to reveal just how                • Keep policy focus on reducing underachievement.                   targeted at specific groups
deprivation can stunt a           • Intervene quickly and effectively to help disadvantaged and       risk creating stigma. While
child’s cognitive                   vulnerable children.                                              there is a need for data –
development. Growing up           • Give highest priority to eliminating child poverty.               and a lack of it hampers
in a stressful,                   • Initiate review of SEN definitions, procedures and provision.     attempts to cater

14                                                                 T O O R D E R T H E C A M B R I D G E P R I M A RY
adequately for migrant children – statistics that focus on
crude aspects of difference can fuel stereotypes.             Travellers:
   Schools have a key role in bridging divides and seeing     what a headteacher says
beyond stereotypes. Evidence gathered by the two-year
Narrowing the Gap project, funded by local and central             The attitude of the              trust – another pivotal issue.
government, highlighted their ‘capacity to act as an               leadership is crucial. I don’t   When I started here in 2006
accessible, non-stigmatising resource for children and        treat Traveller children as           the parents were very feisty. I
families’ and a positive impact on children’s attainment      different. The local authority        used to say to them: “Come in,
when they do so.                                              support team asked if I would         sit down, don’t get cross and
   Many are increasingly embracing this role despite an       like them to do a special             tell me what the problem is
understandable reluctance to be seen as an auxiliary          assembly about Travellers, but        and we will sort it out.” I went
social service, as well as some resentment of the             I said no. I said I’ll only do a      up to their site, talked to them,
contradictions between policies of inclusion, such as         special assembly about them           had cups of tea and so on.
Every Child Matters, and the standards agenda of choice       when I do a special assembly              They are now very
and competition.                                              about my Arabic children or           supportive of the school and
   The Narrowing the Gap project underlined the               my Polish children or my              send their children to our
importance of a strong and consistent focus on the needs      children from South America.          nursery which they didn’t
of all pupils, but particularly the most vulnerable. The      We are an inclusive school and        before. The children now wear
Review supports its call for speedy and effective             we treat all our children as          uniform and last year three
interventions to help disadvantaged children. Good            equally as we can.                    transferred full-time to high
relations between early years settings and primary               Travellers are such a visible      school – up till then transition
schools are essential, as are effective leadership and        community anyway I don’t              had not been successful.
access to a wide range of staff and programmes. Also          think you are doing them a                There have always been
fundamental is the need for better home-school                service by making them very           Traveller children at this
communication – crucially going out and talking to            visible in school. Many people        school so we put them on our
parents, rather than waiting for them to ask for help.        will disagree with this, but it       logo. There’s a strip with a tree,
Parents do need to understand and support their child’s       is my experience of what              a block of flats, a house and a
development, but such messages must be communicated           works.                                caravan. One of the Traveller
with sensitivity in an atmosphere of mutual                      Most of our success hinges         mums saw this, went up to it,
understanding and respect. Clumsy interventions only          on respect. If you show respect       touched it, and said “You
marginalise families further.                                 and liking and treat them             really do care don’t you.”
   Schools can and do make a difference in alleviating        exactly the same way as you
social and educational inequality. Fundamentally, they        treat everyone else then they         Von Smith is head of John
need to model the trust, encouragement, respect and           know that.                            Perryn school, Ealing, London.
optimism that we would wish all parents to transmit to           We’ve also worked very             About 10 per cent of the
their children, says the Review.                              hard to earn the Travellers’          school’s pupils are Travellers.

Review special needs – now
          any of England’s 800,000 pupils with special           The Revew also revealed concerns that pupils are being
          educational needs are still being offered patchy    labelled and segregated unnecessarily both by the type of
          and inadequate services, according to parents,      school they attend and what they are offered when they
teachers and some local authorities. They told the Review     get there. There are fears that they are vulnerable to the
of their deep anxiety and frustration at the postcode         same stereotyping and discrimination experienced by
lottery of funding and support for these vulnerable           some minority ethnic groups and ‘hard-to-reach’ families.
children.                                                     As is well known, many more boys than girls are classified
   It is more than 10 years since the government              as having SEN, but there are serious questions as to
announced its support for the United Nations’ statement       whether this is a reflection of their needs or rather of the
that children with special needs can ‘achieve the fullest     failings of the education system.
educational progress and social integration’ by attending        In the light of these limitations and constraints the
mainstream schools. It is clear that while the principle of   Review says there is an urgent need for a full review of the
inclusion has been largely accepted, the ‘concerted effort’   SEN system. Current efforts to create a genuinely
the UN warned would be required to make it successful is      personalised approach to learning for all children makes
still lacking in many respects.                               the case for a rigorous reappraisal even stronger.

R E V I E W F I NA L R E P O RT, S E E BAC K C OV E R                                                                             15

                       All to play for
                       Extend the foundation stage to age six to build children’s skills and confidence

                ‘               ive is too tender an                                                                           Yet the applause dies
                                age for compulsory                                                                          away in relation to primary
                                attendance.’ These                                                                          schools. Here early years
                                words, spoken by an                                                                         policies and principles
                       MP in 1870, resonate today.                                                                          collide with what has
                       Nearly 150 years after the                                                                           become known as the
                       school starting age was set                                                                          government’s ‘standards
                       at five the consequences of                                                                          agenda’. Four-year-olds in
                       that decision remain                                                                                 reception classes feel the
                       hugely contentious.                                                                                  impact. Research reveals
                          Anxiety focuses on the                                                                            that the holistic and
                       fact that at age five –                                                                              balanced early years
                       against the grain of                                                                                 foundation stage is often
                       evidence, expert opinion                                                                             distorted by the downward
                       and international practice                                                                           pressure of key stages 1
                       – children in England leave                                                                          and 2. Many teachers feel
                       behind their active play-                                                                            obliged to prioritise literacy
                       based learning and embark                                                                            and numeracy as well as to
                       on a formal, subject-based                                                                           drill four-year-olds in the
                       curriculum. For many this                                                                            routines of lining up and
                       process begins at four.                                                                              sitting still and listening.
                       Teachers and parents told                                                                            Goals are set that not all
                       the Review that, essentially,                                                                        pupils can meet, under-
                       five is too tender an age for                                                                        mining their confidence.
                       subject-based learning.                                                                                 The laudable aim is to
                       Indeed, the government             Draw the line: protect the distinctive nature of childhood        narrow England’s
                       recently conceded this                                                                               appallingly large
                       point, proposing to create more opportunities for active,            attainment gap, but this is a lamentable way to proceed.
                       play-based learning in key stage 1. However, the Review              There is no evidence that a child who spends more time
                       recommends a built-in rather than a bolted-on solution.              learning through lessons – as opposed to learning
                          We know, thanks to research, what children need to                through play – will ‘do better’ in the long run. In fact,
                       flourish in their early years. They need the opportunity to          research suggests the opposite; that too formal too soon
                       build their social skills, their language and their                  can be dangerously counterproductive. In 14 of the 15
                       confidence. They do this best through structured play and countries that scored higher than England in a major
                       talk, interacting with each other and with interested and            study of reading and literacy in 2006, children did not
                       stimulating adults. The evidence is overwhelming that all            enter school until they were six or seven. And more
                       children, but particularly those from disadvantaged                  children read for pleasure in most of those countries than
                       homes, benefit from high-quality pre-school experiences. do so in England.
                       While challenges remain in terms of staffing quality and                Many Review witnesses called for England to fall into
                       funding, the Review                                                                                  line with international
                       commends the                                                                                         practice. On average only
                       government’s huge                    Key points                                                      16 per cent of European
                       investment in the early                                                                              Union five-year-olds are in
                       years. It welcomes the             • Strengthen and extend early learning provision.                 school. The majority
                       introduction of the early          • Extend the foundation stage to age six.                         attend nursery schools,
Photo: John Kelleher

                       years foundation stage, and • Replace KS1/2 with single primary phase from six to 11.                pre-schools or
                       applauds the aim of                • Examine feasibility of raising school starting age to six.      kindergartens until they
                       establishing a children’s          • Have unified early years workforce strategy to raise quality    are six or seven, settings in
                       centre in every community.           of provision.                                                   which they follow a

                       16                                                            T O O R D E R T H E C A M B R I D G E P R I M A RY
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