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The dangers of being labelled 'progressive'

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  • Curriculum

I look forward to reading the interim report on the primary school curriculum in England by Sir Jim Rose. The BBC, needing as broadcasters always do, to turn the story into an argument, is presenting Sir Jim’s recommendations as a return to progressive education. The Today programme managed to get the head of the Campaign for Real Education to express grave misgivings, even though it was clear he hadn’t actually read the report.

Opening Minds at the RSA

Having seen what has happened to previous independent reports that the media have managed to caricature as dangerously progressive (remember Tomlinson), Sir Jim himself was at pains to rebut the ideas that he wanted to do away with subject teaching in favour of more play and emphasis on well-being.

Indeed Sir Jim reminded me of RSA colleagues defending Opening Minds. As he pointed out, there is no contradiction between teaching cross-cutting competencies and subject content. And, as he also pointed out, many schools are already achieving good results through an approach to developing skills and broad understanding as the foundation for knowledge. As for his emphasis on play, health and well-being - surely only the most dyed-in-the-wool Gradgrindian will object.

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  • What's wrong with "Progressive Education" ? Surely you don't mean the practice of the best way to draw children into learning. "Learning" is more than what test mavens see as skills and " knowledge". ..facts. No disrespect.
    One of the problems in the understanding of "educationalists" is that their critics have no idea of what teachers do and why. There have been been thousands of major pieces of research that guide practice. Somehow there is the impression that what teachers do is made up as they go along. Nonsense.
    The fact is the profession of teaching moves forward with studies on how and what children learn and what is developmentally appropriate. Thousands of doctorates , masters degrees have been written, many of them problematical, but many carried into practice. What? There are studies on curriculum and teaching?
    Have some respect, critics. Teacher training is much more rigorous than you can
    imagine.. Question: Who was the BEST teacher in primary school? Why?

  • Primary/Elementary schools will succeed when the parents or caregivers of children understand the curriculum goals and receive help in adjusting to the culture of schools. "Community Schools" of the early 1900's developed in the US when educators realized that provision had to be made for the enculturation of immigrants alongside the teaching of children. These schools were seen as a community centers. It is a cop-out to say we need to limit the responsibilities of schools. Rather, what happens in schools need re-conceptualization.

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