Volume 1 (The Report)
Volume 2 (Research and Surveys)
published in 1987 on Plowden's twentieth anniversary.
AH Halsey and Kathy Sylva
The Oxford Review of Education articles were prepared by Derek Gillard and uploaded on 3 January 2005.
From Condescension to Complexity: post-Plowden schooling in the inner city
© Copyright 1987 Carfax Publishing
Page numbers are from the journal.
DAVID WINKLEY, one time Fellow of Nuffield College Oxford, is currently honorary Professor at the Universities of Warwick and Birmingham and President of the National Primary Trust. He is the author of Diplomats and Detectives: a study of local authority management and advisory services (Cassell 1986); and Handsworth Revolution: odyssey of a school (DLM 2002), a book which greatly extends the themes of this article.
From Condescension to Complexity: post-Plowden schooling in the inner city
ABSTRACT The Plowden Report, it is argued, underrated the seriousness of race and cultural issues in the inner city, and it is now clear that schools and LEAs failed to respond adequately to the rapid changes they experienced. Underlying these failures were oversimplified assumptions about the experiences and backgrounds of children and their families. The pressures to cope with change were compounded by financial conservativism and professional bewilderment. The need to shift to greater institutional consciousness and to a more sophisticated philosophical grasp of cultural and racial meanings is discussed. The slow evolution of improvements in teachers' perceptions and performance is examined together with our developing understanding of the kind of complex professional qualities required of a teaching force in the 1980s. Progress depends on a more subtle and responsive attitude by teachers towards the views and values of the families they serve.
If 1967 was a watershed for primary education in this country 1968, the year Enoch Powell hung his colours to the mast, was one for race relations. How well, we may ask, did Plowden anticipate what was to come?
The call to respond to the challenge of the new immigrants and their families in the 1960s was there right enough; but Plowden for the most part enclosed the issues under larger umbrellas of inner city deprivation and the EPA, and the mainstream of its pressure towards a liberal and 'progressive' education for young children. On the matters of race and culture in the inner city, it beat the drum tentatively, and seriously underrated the issues. The Plowden argument was broadly that racism (or 'prejudice' as it was called) was not of too much concern:
Most primary school teachers do not think that colour prejudice causes much difficulty. (1)
In time all would be well, and children would eventually become 'absorbed into the native population'; (2) 'The worst problem of all is that of language.' (3) But the more significant and encompassing issue was that of the EPA school, the established link between poverty, cultural deprivation and educational achievement. The formula here for moving ahead combined improving resourcing with broad messages about sensitivity and tolerant management which fitted with its general philosophy. It was as confident and liberally prescriptive on these, as on most, issues. The presumption was that matters were 'known', for sure, and teachers ought to be expected to respond appropriately.
As we see it now the confidence was greatly misplaced. It failed to pick up some important messages which, looking back, were ripe for plucking.
Grove School, Handsworth, where I now work, would have been as good a place to begin an analysis as any. It was one of the first in the country to absorb, very quickly, large numbers of immigrant children. Front page headlines in the local and national press highlighted the Grove experience in their characteristically insensitive way:
Immigrant children threaten classroom standards. (Sunday Mercury 9 December 1962)
And quotes from the texts put them in context:
In 1957 we only had one immigrant in the school, and he was Cypriot. Now all we do is lose white children and take in immigrant ones. It's a shame that Handsworth should have been allowed to get to its present condition. (Headteacher, Grove School Birmingham Evening Mail 1 November 1965)By 1975 when I joined the school, 98 per cent of the school was of immigrant parentage, with approximately 75 per cent West Indian. The 'problems' - better described as institutional difficultes - were considerable. My predecessor had been taken ill after a short encumbency, the headmistress quoted above having retired with the OBE. By 1975 the LEAs had responded in part to the Plowden recommendation. There was an 'immigrant allowance' for teachers, replaced by the SPS allowance in the early 70s. There was some financial positive discrimination, though this was marginal; there was some staffing benefit, allowing a slightly higher proportion of more experienced teachers. This though was countered by the greater difficulty in attracting staff than was evident in most parts of the city. There was a single full-time ESL teacher, and all classes were over thirty.
The story over the ten years from 1975 to 1985 is one of arduous struggle against the forces of slow growth, lack of political and managerial perception, combined with a steady and increasing sense of the need for teachers to reconsider the nature of their own prejudices and practices, in order to improve delivery closer to what the community expects and the children require. The history of a school expresses a tension between external and internal forces: on the one hand the impress of outside events distorts, shapes or constrains the internal world of the school; while equally schools have attitudes of their own, which oppose as well as absorb. And there are personal histories too, in the minds and feelings of the teachers, front line soldiers in the battle. I am now much more battle weary, as well as knowledgeable about the sheer height of the slopes, and the obstinacy and evasiveness of the opposition.
Failures of governments and LEAs to respond to the increasing problems schools and inner city communities such as Handsworth faced over this period have been well chronicled. (4, 5, 6) There were, none the less, some definite improvements in delivery as well as insight. The first worth mentioning was an LEA initiative, based on Plowden, the parent-school liaison teacher. The development of this invaluable person in the school I have examined elsewhere. (7) It gave credibility to one of the most important post-Plowden developments, the emphasis on school and community, and
the importance of parent-school relationships. The establishing of community contacts, support for parents, home visiting on a large scale, the setting up of toy libraries and pre-school play workers, can all be credited to this important appointment. It has subsequently led to further initiatives in parent-consultation and parents' involvement in children's learning. Over the decade since 1975 we have also managed an average of twenty parents evenings a year.
Plowden also recommended the development of community schools, and would be disappointed with the subsequent take-up rate amongst LEAs. Grove school, here, made its own efforts. The teachers set up an evening centre for the community, twice a week, which at its peak had some 200 people coming. In 1978 we set up a youth club, and in 1979 clubs for scouts and guides. For four years holiday play schemes at school were run for the children. All these were closed when the City Labour administration of 1981, pursuing a programme of rationalisation, cancelled all extra-mural activities after 6.00 p.m. For the most part, activities were now to be confined to selected local secondary schools. In the early seventies a small group of us raised £25,000 for a hostel on a farm twenty miles away which was subsequently built and is extensively used. This initiative is quite independent of the LEA and is now run as a Trust by teachers. Central funding also helped especially in improved staffing. Section 11 paid for the ESL teachers; the inner city Partnership Fund has, until 1985 paid for an extra teacher to respond to the needs of children with behavioural and emotional difficulties. Class size remained unaffected by the expansion of specialist staff funded in the main from central government funds, rather than the main LEA budget. In fact the amount of money that the government claims to have invested in Handsworth has not substantially touched Handsworth schools, which remain amongst the most underfunded city schools in the country. There was, it is true, extra capitation allowance made by the LEA for Special Priority Schools, but even in the 80s this only amounted to two and a half pence per child per week.
Finally, in 1978 a new building was erected, built to minimum DES specification with classrooms of 3 metres square per child. It split the school in two and it now operates in two buildings some distance apart.
Against this there has been the backdrop of political developments and changes. Independent-mindedness in the community began in the early seventies, with self-support organisations and events such as black supplementary summer schools, though most of the latter faded out by the 80s. Sikh and Muslim supplementary religious schooling is now common, and many children attend in the evenings. There has since the sixties been a sharp political sense in the community, with numerous active groups, and a great deal of provocation. During the 70s it was common during elections for extreme right-wing organisations to take advantage of a clause which allows them access to a local school for meetings during the run-up election period. On one occasion an orchestrated meeting was arranged at Grove, and provocatively advertised at the University of Warwick - there was a considerable student opposition response, a large police presence, and the inside of the school was substantially damaged. Damage was frequent over the period 1973-1980, a problem belatedly resolved by the setting up of burglar alarm systems. The occasional community tensions and the harassment that Handsworth consistently receives from the press cause special problems for the school which has to make its standing clear with the community at large (its total opposition to racist organisations, for instance).
To these hazards we may add the phenomenon of population change: the ethnic balances in Handsworth have changed dramatically over the last ten years, and we now
have, at Grove, an almost equal number of Sikhs, Muslims, Hindus and Christian children, with about three per cent of Buddhists, though still only two per cent of the school is white. Such changes make for special challenges in planning the curriculum and developing community links. And to this we may add changes of political control in the city, matched by a variety of managerial 'reorganisations'. The post-Maud upheavals were followed by extensive reorganisation of secondary schools and an increasingly combative attention to education from both sides of the political spectrum. Birmingham even now is undergoing a massive management reorganisation, and yet another reconstruction of school area groupings. Over this period schools have had, somehow, to create stability and security and where they have failed teachers have comprehensively had to carry the blame. The local scene in this respect mirrors the national one.
What then of the teachers: what responsibility do they bear for the failures and achievements of the last twenty years?
My impression of teachers in the late sixties and early seventies was of considerable unevenness of talent - and there is no doubt that the standard of entry has steadily improved. There was a wide range of teacher ideology, from the left, broadly speaking in favour of a highly permissive regime, to the right who wanted tougher discipline. The incumbent ideology of Grove School, however, which was not uncharacteristic of many, was of a kind of commonsensical formality, teachers managing children as best they may, with regular deskbound book work in unstreamed classes with a huge range of ability. The skill with which different teachers managed varied widely.
Ideological tensions increased through the early seventies with the growing sense that all was not well. Evidence was emerging, soon after Plowden, that children were underachieving. (8) Political racism was taking its toll. The links with the American black power movement gave a new impetus and identity to young black political groups. The insecurity of the children was beginning to show in school, and discipline problems (which had long been an issue in inner city schools) were becoming the focus of the teachers' own sense that a good deal was being expected of them, which they were not clear how to deliver. Plowden's use of the word 'problem' (9) ushers in the period when the instinct was increasingly to 'blame' the children, their culture or community for the intense difficulties they often presented in school. It was the period when ESN labels were slapped on miscreant children, the simple solution to discipline problems. To our credit, here, no one was ever suspended, and we accepted, in 1976 1977 and 1978, three children who had been suspended from other schools (and we continue to do so.) The key philosophical tension was between the Plowden philosophy - child-centred and liberal - and the sense on the ground that immigrant children were from a cultural background where discipline, formality and attention to formal skills were the educational expectation. (10) Even in the early seventies the best teachers undoubtedly tried to work within a broadly liberal philosophy but needed extraordinary skills of diplomacy and child management to cope with some of the more striking discipline problems. On the other hand Maureen Stone argued plainly in 1981 that the Plowden philosophy had failed black children, who need skills-training and formal discipline, and their underachievement can be substantially accounted for by inappropriate styles of schooling. (11) It is certainly true that Plowden underrated the difficulties, both in child management -
Irresponsibility has to be allowed for ... (12)and in remedying children's reading difficulties:
Those who have done remedial work will be aware of the astonishing rapidity
of the progress which can be achieved particularly in extending vocabulary once children's curiosity is released. (13)Plowden, while in many ways on the right lines, did a disservice in making it all sound so easy, so inevitable, so surely right. Teachers, struggling, had to find their own way out of the wood.
There is no doubt that in the seventies the management of difficult and insecure children was the most obvious challenge teachers had to face. The most critical challenge, however, was the need to bite bitterly on some difficult issues that concerned their own behaviour. A sharp self-criticism was required, and a sense of purpose that somehow bridged the gap between the widely different perceptions of what was needed. Moreover, there was a tradition of teacher isolation and autonomy in primary schools that encouraged disparateness and isolation rather than the intense institutional group thinking that was obviously needed. Planning and discussion were in fact the essential groundbase for significant improvement.
It all took time, and it needed, to begin with, a properly contructed analysis, of a kind which was (and still is) too often missing. And progress, I think, had to begin with a careful rethinking of the professionals' own attitudes to the clients they serve.
Rethinking attitudes is like opening Pandora's box. It exposes the views we have, and to some extent the sort of people we are. The central proposition, to my mind, is that without thought-out, supportive relationships with pupils and families no significant progress can be made.
The failures of children to achieve educationally are not solely accounted for by inefficient teaching. The striking thing about so many of the children of Handsworth is not their lack of ability but the difficulty they have in internalising a sense of what they can achieve if they can motivate and organise their lives sufficiently well. I have talked to a number of young people ten years on who have been highly successful, even though the cards were heavily stacked against them, and they argue with some passion that they needed a kind of mentor, almost a Socratian tutor to give support, encouragement and understanding over a long period of time; they also argued for teachers who can genuinely empathise with and motivate the children. I, like them, am not convinced that the failures were failures of skill. Very few children left Grove between 1975 and 1985 unable to read well; a substantial number had academic potential. A smaller number were potentially outstandingly able. And yet the proportion who progressed to higher education (though there are those striking successes which need examining carefully) was disappointingly small.
The kinds of relationships called for require humility and acceptance and a high degree of motivation from the teacher that this child will do well. Conviction is half the battle. It is not a sentimental relationship. It respects the child's autonomy - and encourages it to as high a degree as possible. It unmistakably puts high value on the child's background, expressed in the child's feelings and values. On the other hand it is demanding of the child in terms of work and discipline. The mentor - like the good parent - is patient and tolerant but will stick his neck out if he has to; not everything should be an easy ride. To suppose that it is would be patronising.
This challenge is a good deal tougher than Plowden ever suggested, because it forces us to face incompatibles. We are required to care as well as to chivvy and chastise; humility is required in the midst of conviction. And we need to begin with an understanding of our own relationship to racialist and cultural attitudes.
Why did teachers develop such a reputation for racism that the recent report 'A Different Reality' can blame racist teachers comprehensively for the failure of
Handsworth children? (14) Whilst this unqualified accusation is, it seems to me, both rhetorical and unhelpful, the issue is there, and has to be faced. We have not as a nation produced either a convincing strategy for tackling racism, partly from lack of will, partly because we have lacked definitive clarity (what in this context is racism?), and partly because the line of disciplinary and bureaucratic prescription, creating a cohort of outsider 'advisers' seems to me to underestimate the difficulties of bridging the gap between the watchdogs and the class teachers.
The advisory industry over this period has undoubtedly produced a great deal of resentment, much of it unspoken (itself for fear of seeming 'racist'). The problem has been the resentment of class teachers towards an expansion of expensive personnel who do not carry anything like the day-today responsibility at the front line, whilst conditions for class teachers have become ever more difficult. Moreover the process whereby teachers, as a group, as part of institutions, take on new ideas of the kind which fundamentally change their attitude has not been understood. Too often the result has been a kind of splitting - teachers seen as either 'good' or 'bad' according to their views on an issue; at worst this is the extension of an immature and paranoid psychology which rigidifies and separates. It drives people into defensive bunkers, and perversely mirrors the very process some teachers use to categorise children rigidly, causing them to feel inadequate and worthless. On the other hand there is no doubt that teachers have generally been too conservative and complacent on these issues, and some provocation has been useful.
Very few teachers are overtly and intentionally out and out racists; those that there are ought not to be in the profession. The problem is the condescension of the rest of us. And condescension - which in my definition would come close to Hall's description of 'inferential racism' (15) - is a useful word to describe a national phenomenon. Its mainstay is a peculiar kind of patronage - respect for those 'higher' than us, a faint pity for those 'lower', a sense of class - social, and even intellectual (first, second, third) that echoes throughout national attitudes. It is compounded by colonialism, which is a historically paternalist kind of condescension. It is recreated in the experience of all of us, most of whom have been actually or implicitly significantly categorised at some point in our lives. We have been taught to know what is high-class and what is not. It is a disease which has fearful resonance when we deal with black youngsters. The confusions and resentfulness of teachers, many of whom see themselves as in a low status profession, and are similarly patronised by outsiders, especially educational management, lay the ground for fiercer and more damaging and hurtful behaviours. We assume children are 'problems', we categorise and stereotype them; we mark, grade and confidently assess them. It is a powerful excuse for overt cruelty.
Equally we need to reconstruct our views of culture. One problem with the 'multicultural' idiom has been a grandiloquent and overconfident assumption that we know what culture is (another category, maybe, of condescending confidence). Cautious study of the more adroit commentators - such as Williams (16), say, or Rosenberg (17) - gives us pause for thought. Culture, like racism, is a word misused and diminished to mean we show interest in those aspects of a person's background which most conveniently fit with our moral and cultural estimates. We keep our notions safe and in check. But when we widen cultural questions - to (say) issues about child rearing, or to social and community attitudes towards how we ourselves behave - then we become prickly and defensive. It is not surprising that massive clashes of values can arise, and that radical blacks begin to ask for their own schools, the freedom to run, discipline, and develop them in their own ways. They have a case. The most powerful
cultural clash is not between views about the history of colonial nations but a living dispute about how here and now we bring up our children. And the family cultures of many black and Asian children, sharpened by self-consciousness as minorities in a hostile society, are strikingly self confident. This shows, for instance, in the absolute support black and Asian parents will give (once trust is established) to the school, compared with white parents who are much more diverse and unpredictable in the way they manage (or very often fail to manage) their children. A recent meeting of health visitors in Birmingham pointed out that one of their main problems at present is advising young white working class parents on how to manage their children; family cultures in many homes are going through a real crisis of confidence. At worst black and Asian parents (perhaps rightly) see some aspects of English society as a threat to their family values. As one parent put it, in discussing these issues on Panorama, 'we did not come here to spoil the children'. (18)
A pluralist and 'multicultural' sense of values is desirable in so far as it means encouraging and trying to understand and celebrate the values of others; that ought to go without saying. But if it means failure of commitment, then it easily slips into a kind of patronising or diminishing of values. A genuine acknowledgement of the cultural life of others means a handing-over of authority in some important ways - at least being prepared to listen and negotiate.
We have, on a number of occasions, canvassed local opinion about the school and its policies, through questionnaires. A recent University of Birmingham study (19) examined our parents' views of a number of issues to do with discipline. Some of the outcomes and consensus of views were uncomfortable for a post-Plowden liberal. The support for school uniform was overwhelming; the support for minor forms of corporal punishment is universal, from both children and parents. Thirty per cent of the cohort thought the school was not strict enough; no parents thought it was too strict. Sixty per cent of parents wanted more school involvement with management of children at home. And all this in the context of parents who clearly support the school strongly, and have considerable trust in the way the teachers by and large manage their children. But these are issues directly in discord, in some cases, with the teachers' own instincts and philosophies.
The question of how far we go along with parents, has, over the years become more and more significant; but it is certainly a kind of patronage to deny a voice and a value for their opinions.
It is for the school to make that wide and difficult jump between the rigour of clear-minded cultural family values and the kind of attitudinal tolerance that the anti-racist and child-sensitive policies seem to require (20). Teachers need tough-mindedness and ingenuity to work out how to handle these dilemmas.
Then in the middle of all this is the child, and it is hard to quite comprehend the ambivalent feelings that a child in England of immigrant parentage must have. The chronicle of such feelings has yet to be written. It is amusingly summed up by the experience I had recently of a Muslim girl brought to me by her mother to be punished for disappearing from school during afternoon break to creep home to watch Dallas on the video. There is a sense in which the communities themselves are trying (and often not quite succeeding) to protect themselves from the omnipresent forces that mark international, media-filtered Westernism. And yet television and other mass media are the permeable membrane of all cultures and are undoubtedly making their impact on the young generations. On the one hand there is the pervasive worldwide growth of a
kind of universal 'hotel' culture, as Glinter Grass describes it (21); on the other there is the view that the heterogeneity of individual beliefs and sentiments is so extreme that even our sense of self is an increasingly slender entity (22). Rosenberg, for instance, argues that today there are only 'one-person' cultures so that assertions of value only make sense within the framework of an individual's preferences (23). We are all to some extent caught up in these contemporary cultural dilemmas; but young people from social cultures which are lively, coherent and self-protective, most of all.
Exemplary attention to attitudes, race, culture and feelings, lays the foundation for good practice. Over the years changes of attitude have led to changes in curriculum and teaching styles, spearheaded in some areas by able black and Asian teachers (about twenty per cent of the staff since 1978). Teachers, planning together, have given more sensitive attention to what the children do. Grove School has become progressively more radical and open. In 1977 we began to encourage young black community leaders and students to talk to children, to get them to discuss politics and issues of race - and so do the teachers, directly, as part of the curriculum. We set up procedures for children to argue and think, and make decisions for themselves. They can complain when they like - and are expected to complain. We respond to the feelings of difficult or unhappy children by offering a counselling service to individual children by a teacher who is trained in sensitive listening. It is this perhaps more than anything else that has helped the school to relax, the children to feel happy and good humoured. It acts as a powerful counter to aggression and concentrates the teachers' minds on the children as individuals.
At the same time we have increased rather than lessened attention to achievement. Curriculum structures creating a progressive pattern of experiences through the age groups has been devised. Far more emphasis is given to art, to homework, to reading at home, to cumulative profiling, and to the importance of mother tongue. We are more open, too, in deploying a variety of techniques in dealing with skill acquisition. As a minor offshoot of this we are currently interested in DISTAR, a behavioural reading programme which some researchers in the USA have claimed as the most effective answer to learning problems in the basic skills; nothing could be more opposed to the Plowden philosophy - yet my initial impressions are that it acts as a useful injection helping some children to develop confidence.
We allow for a range of ability. Honeyford was quite wrong. The white children (including my own, who have been through Grove) perform extremely well, and are very settled. The very advanced children are given particular attention, likewise; the idea is to respond to need. The critical question is - are we giving this child precisely the kind of combination of sympathy, tough-mindedness and teaching support that he/she requires? And finally, are we valuing the work that the child produces? The contraints now are our own, dependent on our ability to manage the complexity of the challenges. The critical factor remains the quality of the experience we offer the children, purposeful rewarding activity that will make them enthusiastic and confident about learning.
We do not always succeed. There is inevitably an unevenness amongst the staff, and class sizes are far too big for the individual attention children need. On the other hand I am continually impressed by the way new young teachers manage to take on and develop the approaches the school is trying to evolve.
If all this sounds easy it is not. I have, over the years of my private history, become much clearer about what can be done, but much more aware too of the complexity and hazards of the achieving. For there are so many paradoxes and constraints. The
confidence of the 60s has passed through many stages. The pressure for change has been accompanied by restless attempts at accommodation while the sands have been continually shifting. In some ways we seem no further on. Large parts of the country still have given little attention to the need for an anti-racist policy, to change attitudes and reform the curriculum. The old complacencies, not least amongst LEAs, are still too common. Actual classes at Grove are as large now as they were twenty years ago. There are fewer points (the system by which we appoint senior teachers) now than ten years ago. The disparities in spending between different parts of the country have widened rather than narrowed. Once again teachers are reluctant to come to Handsworth, and political and media rhetoric make it harder. Unemployment meanwhile is at record levels; there are times when as many as 90 per cent of the children have free meal entitlement. Through the years of this history the media message has been one of failure - which seeps, inevitably, into the morale of the community.
We certainly need, above all, teachers who can work with paradox and disillusion; people who can combine confidence with a sense of humility. I have had to learn that activists with inflexible moral convictions, however right they may be in principle, are not always the best to cope with the balance and subtlety of other people's views and feelings; and the left can be as arrogant and patronising as the right, though on the wider political front they have achieved more. It is the political left, albeit in a dislocated and partial way, that has over the years pressed for the more complex view of events that we are now moving towards; it anticipated what was to come, and cared much more about the needs of the people in poorer communities. There is much to be said for analyses such as Baron's (24), and more still for the commitment to improved resourcing of local administrations such as in Sheffield or ILEA.
On the other hand politicans and managements everywhere have a habit of blaming the teachers for everything, when it suits them, and at the same time fail to listen to their needs. Teachers have as little space to move, and think, as the children in their three metres of classroom. It is the process of the management of the ideas which makes for change, a theme which Plowden scarcely touched, and which we need to attend to. The old sureties, so loudly exhorted by Plowden (which resounds with thousands of 'shoulds') need to go. We need more patient consideration of the evidence - and a good deal of the evidence we require, as Swann admitted (25), is, like Atlantis, waiting to be found. Experience creates ambivalence. The quality of the way teachers think is all important. Teachers' minds at best need to be 'burdened with a double consciousness' (to use a phrase of Henry James.) Children need both discipline and freedom, social engineering has its place, but so does listening; we may agree but we shall also disagree with cultural attitudes; schools matter, and make a difference, but there are other considerations too, in a landscape of poverty and unemployment. We must not lose our sense of disadvantage as a political concern. The analysis of disadvantage which augured the development of EPAs remains sound and still requires a political response. On the other hand there is still much to be learned about the ordering of priorities and the effectiveness of resourcing. Much more attention needs to be paid to the needs of very young children, and to family support in the early years, via nurseries, playgroups and health visitors; to the need for a much higher general priority for primary education (still the Cinderella of the services) and to the need for more serious attention to long-term counselling and support of children. At the same time a sense of 'disadvantage' must not exclude adaptation to parents' expectation, and to some extent, as Kowalczewski argued (26), a handing over of influence to communities.
And there is yet another history; the history of day to day events, the accumulation of thousands of happenings. We all have a fear of the anecdotal but it is, in a sense, in anecdotes, the moment to moment, that the texture of life resides. It is somehow too easy to bleed white the quality of the evidence, to bulldoze through to convenient generalisations. There is an intensity and physicality about working at a school like Grove that is hard to describe convincingly. There are dozens of inconsequential stories that somehow build into a patchwork quilt, a substance of contacts and feeings about people that is much more like the daily life of a very visible family, set (maybe) in a lively village. In the end the reputation of a school is built up from such moments, themselves the products of hundreds of children.
The substance, though, must have an overriding purpose. And my view is clear - despite the inclination to tentativeness on so many detailed issues - that the immigrants and their families have brought a new potential to the nation. Our resentfulness of the newcomers is the resentfulness of loss and insecurity, pomposity and nostalgia. We have yet to realise the importance to us of the influx of newcomers and their (now) English children, most of whom, hopefully, are here to stay. We have every reason to celebrate this new diversity, not least because here is a new sense of values, a new instinct and passion for life that seethes beneath the occasional angry (and uncomprehending) gestures of dismay at the way they are treated. (27)
1. The Plowden Report (1976) p. 69.
20. cf. PA GREEN Multi-ethnic teaching and pupils' self-concept in Annex B, The Swann Report (1985) p. 46-53 (London, HMSO).