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Six significant educational reports of the last 60 years

June 4, 2012

As I reflect on the pageantry and celebration of the Queen’s 60 years as monarch I cannot help but reflect as an educationalist on the last six decades.   In doing so, I set myself the challenge of selecting   six education reports of significance during this period.  It has been no easy feat.  Nonetheless, here is my list:

  1. The Crowther Report and Further Education (1959)
  2. Plowden Report – Children and their Primary Schools (1967)
  3. Coard report on How the West Indian Child is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British School System (1971)
  4. Rampton Report West Indian Children in our Schools: interim report of the Committee of Enquiry into the education of children from ethnic minority groups. (1981) finalised as: Swann Report Education for All: report of the Committee of Enquiry into the education of children from ethnic minority groups (1985)
  5. Dearing Report: review of higher education (1997)
  6. The Munro Review of Child Protection: Final Report – A child-centred system (2011)

The titles convey their area of focus and the space within a blog is insufficient to elaborate.  As a further challenge, I select two of the above that I consider the most significant.

The Plowden Report: children and their Primary School

Two reasons lead me to the Plowden Report.  The first is its much quoted “At the heart of the educational process is the child.” Although causing some controversy its emphatically child- centred approach is based on meeting the distinct needs of the individual child, creatively  learning to enjoy learning.  A lesser known feature that merits its selection is its intention to consider the role of primary schooling alongside transition to secondary school. In this and  fundamentals such as the importance oforacy and the crucial role of independent learning in developing higher order thinking skills its ideas  have relevance for every stage of schooling.

Coard report  – How the West Indian Child is Made Educationally Subnormal in the British School System (1971)

For any researcher on the education of Black children in Britain, the Coard report is essential.  Coard was stark in his reasoning surrounding the statistically low achievement which saw twice as many Black children placed in what were known as schools for the Educationally Subnormal. Contributory factors included low teacher expectations, low expectations on the part of the Black child, especially Black boys; as a result of identity issues in a society which only highlighted and contributed to their failure.The report lifted the lid off some simmering, race-related educational concerns and it is salutary that Coard’s report was re-issued over 30 years later.

The reports selected remind us that our contemporary concerns in education are not quite so modern.  ‘Parity of esteem’ between academic and vocational qualification and different types of educational provision; access to higher education; tackling inequalities based on income, social class, ethnicity, gender etc.  and meeting the needs of  employers, individuals  and wider society are only some of the long-standing concerns. It was the Plowden Report (1967) which stated:

Our present society requires a highly adaptable labour force, which is not only more skilled, but is better able to learn new skills, to tackle new jobs and to face new  problems.

It is a drastically different Society in the UK, the commonwealth and across the globe from the society at which the 25 year old Queen gazed 60 years ago. As some of the ‘old’ problems persist, alongside a new emphasis on others, as in the Munro review, it is imperative that those of us involved in creating educational solutions are informed by and learn from the past and from all sides of the social and political spectrum.  I’d be interested to receive your top six educational reports over the last 60 years and if you’re brave enough, your most important one (or two) from the six.

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