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Episode 3 of 3
Education journalist Mike Baker traces the controversial changes to the ways we have educated our youngest children over the past 150 years, from the rigidity of the Victorian age to the occasionally anarchic, experiential learning of the progressive 1970s.
Mike explores the parallels between the Victorian 'payment-by-results' approach and the pressures of league tables and the national test targets set by Tony Blair's New Labour government. It reveals how teachers lost the trust of government and how politicians 'nationalised' teaching. Calling on vivid views and reminiscences of parents and teachers, the programme hears how some welcomed the new focus on a centralised curriculum and test targets while others hated it.
Through interviews with key policy makers and experts, including David Blunkett, Sir Tim Brighouse and Prof Robin Alexander, the programme explains why arguments over curriculum, teaching methods and testing are deeply rooted in our ideas about the nature, development and role of young people in society.
The former Chief Inspector of Schools in England, Chris Woodhead, who helped devise the national curriculum, reveals that he now thinks that a centrally-set timetable is the wrong approach. Instead, he advocates a market system based on parental vouchers. After several swings of the pendulum between the extremes of formality versus informality, facts versus skills and basics versus creativity, the programme asks where the balance should lie now and in the future.
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