Becoming a Teacher: Issues in Secondary Teaching

By Justin Dillon; Meg Maguire | Go to book overview

4 Ideology, evidence and the
raising of standards

Paul Black


Introduction

A teacher's classroom work is constrained by a framework of rules and beliefs about curriculum and assessment. In England and Wales that framework underwent a revolution when a national curriculum and assessment system was put in place, for the first time, by the Education Reform Act of 1988. This chapter is about that revolution, about its consequences, and about the broader lessons that can be learnt from it. The first section discusses the background — the ideas and beliefs that helped drive the development of the new policies. Subsequent sections will discuss the developments, first of the National Curriculum, and then of the assessment system (Chapter 17 deals with the more technical aspects of assessment).

Whilst some of what is described is now history, this is offered both to inform understanding of present systems in the light of their origins, and to aid reflection on obstacles to reform in the future. Many of the problems arise from the myriad pressures that bear on policy makers — pressures which will not go away. It is important, therefore, to understand these, but also to look beyond them. Thus a final section addresses fundamental purposes by returning to the themes of the first section, looking at beliefs and assumptions that stand in the way of a more coherent and effective approach to education policy.


Nostalgia, fear and myth

The world of politics is driven by a mixture of rationality, myth and expediency. In education, three powerful myths have driven political

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