Changing Teaching and Learning in the Primary School

Changing Teaching and Learning in the Primary School

Changing Teaching and Learning in the Primary School

Changing Teaching and Learning in the Primary School


"With care, and in partnership with others, it may yet be possible to overcome contemporary dilemmas and to provide the high quality, rounded and fulfilling education for all to which so many aspire. This book helps considerably in understanding contemporary problems and challenges in primary education - it is important, timely and deserves to be widely read."Andrew Pollard, Institute of Education, LondonWhat is the impact of New Labour's education policies on primary schools?What are the main lessons to be learned from recent research on primary schools?What are the implications for the future of primary education?In this topical book, leading academics in primary education evaluate New Labour's Education policy. They draw on the findings of the latest research to discuss the impact of policies on primary school practice and on the views and experiences of primary school teachers and pupils. Current issues and initiatives are analysed to identify the extent to which policy is shaped by past events, trends and assumptions. The contributors consider the future of primary education, offer recommendations at school, LEA and national level, and make suggestions for future research. Changing Teaching and Learning in the Primary School emphasises the central importance of taking children's perspectives into account when making changes in policy and practice. By focusing predominantly on teaching and learning at Key Stage 2, the book addresses the imbalance between the range and depth of information offered on pre-school and infant education and that available on junior teaching. This is key reading for students on primary initial teacher training programmes, Education Studies students, primary school teachers and classroom assistants, as well as education researchers and school leaders.


For practitioners and policy makers with an interest in evidence, this book is a sort of 'gift'. Within its covers, nice and tidy, are many insightful analyses about recent policy and practice in primary education. Of even more significance are the challenges it poses for the future.

There are many specific messages about 'what is' and 'what might be' in relation to topics such as pupil perspectives, classroom relationships, new technologies and pedagogies, assessment, inclusion, language diversity, workforce reform, leadership and professionalism. Beyond these, however, I believe there is a more fundamental and enduring message.

The major underlying implication of this collection is that policy and practice in primary education should be based on evidence-informed principles concerning the learning of young children. Provision for curriculum, pedagogy, assessment and institutional arrangements should be consistent with such principles.

Sadly, as the chapters by Vulliamy and Webb and by Campbell demonstrate, New Labour has, to date, been little more successful at this than were the Conservative governments that preceded them. Commitments to high standards and inclusion may be commendable but practical implementation has been characterized by pressure for narrow performance and by competition between schools, which itself is differentiating. In the face of such structural imperatives, occasional attempts to 'enrich' the curriculum, affirm the importance of pupil motivation and 'enjoyment' or encourage new 'networked learning communities' are undermined. The contradictions are too stark. Indeed, the irony is that the very pressure to enhance standards seems at risk of undermining children's motivation and engagement with learning per se. The long-term ambition of a nation of lifelong learners is made harder by educationally naïve pressure for short-term performance.

And yet, as I write this preface, a newspaper headline reads: 'Exams cut by third as stress on pupils soars' (Observer, 26 March 2006) and the Chief Executive of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority is reported as being determined to reduce the overall burden on pupils. Earlier in the week, it was announced that the Secretary of State for Education was to commission a review of the principles on which teaching and learning should be based to 2020 – and, of course, 'personalized learning' is now foregrounded in almost all policy initiatives.

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