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Here are all the articles on education I have written since 1987.

MA Dissertation

Completed in 1992, this is about the revision of Oxfordshire's Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education.

Book Reviews

My reviews of 39 books on a variety of educational topics.

School Policies

Five school policies written by the staff of Marston Middle School Oxford in the 1990s when I was the head teacher.


listed in reverse chronological order (most recent first)

Labour and the grammar schools: a history
June 2017. 4800 words. This article outlines the Labour Party's attitude to selective secondary education from the creation of the party in 1900 to the present day, and concludes with an account of Labour's response to Theresa May's proposal to bring back the eleven plus.

Turning in their graves? A tale of two coalitions
December 2012. 1200 words. Churchill's wartime coalition aimed to create a public education system which would be fair to and free for all. In this article I argue that successive governments have failed to live up to their vision and that the present coalition government is dismantling the democratic edifice their predecessors created.

Hobson's Choice: education policies in the 2010 general election
July 2010. 3700 words. This piece summarises the policies relating to families, children and education which were presented to the electorate by the three main parties in their manifestos, together with the policies listed in the Coalition's Programme for Government following the election. It concludes with a few observations on the future of state education in England.

Short and Fraught: the history of primary education in England
June 2009. 8600 words. The Cambridge Primary Review and the government's Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum issued their final reports in 2009. They were the first major reports on primary education since the Plowden Report Children and their Primary Schools in 1967. In addition, the Children Schools and Families Select Committee issued its report on the National Curriculum. This article seeks to place all three reviews in their historical context.

Us and Them: a history of pupil grouping policies in England's schools
December 2008. 19,000 words. In this article I describe the ways in which pupils in England have been allocated to teaching groups during the period in which the state has provided education - roughly from 1860 to the present. I note the views expressed in government reports and White Papers, the arguments made by educationists, and the findings of research projects.

Never Mind the Evidence: Blair's obsession with faith schools
May 2007. 8500 words. Tony Blair's governments sought to increase the number of schools controlled by churches and other religious groups despite a mass of evidence about the dangers of faith-based education and in the face of widespread professional, political and public concerns. In this article I recount the history and analyse the motives behind the policy.

Axes to Grind: the first five years of Blair's academies
April 2007. 5100 words. Academies - effectively private schools funded by the taxpayer - were the brainchild of Tony Blair's education adviser Andrew Adonis. In this article I describe the first five years of the controversial experiment.

The Hadow Reports: an introduction
September 2006. 10,700 words. Under the chairmanship of Sir WH Hadow, the Board of Education's Consultative Committee produced six reports between 1923 and 1933. In this article I describe the background, summarise each of the reports, and conclude with some observations on the extent to which their recommendations were implemented.

Tricks of the Trade: whatever happened to teacher professionalism?
May 2005. 10,400 words. In this article I survey the history of teaching in England, argue that teacher professionalism was a short-lived phenomenon which has been in decline for thirty years, and make some suggestions for rescuing the profession.

Food for Thought: child nutrition, the school dinner and the food industry
July 2003. 7100 words. The New Labour government sought to improve children's diets with a raft of 'healthy-eating' initiatives and nutritional standards for school meals. In this article, I recount the history of the school dinner and offer some suggestions for future government policy.

The Supply Teacher's Lot
March 2003. 3000 words. In this article I describe my experience as a supply teacher in a local school. Every word is true - only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Creationism: bad science, bad religion, bad education
April 2002. 6200 words. In March 2002 it was reported that at least two state-funded schools in the UK were teaching their students 'creationism', a phenomenon previously limited to the US. In this article I outline the origins of such teaching and the criticisms of it, and suggest that it is the inevitable outcome of Labour's policy of encouraging private sponsorship of religious schools.

Glass in their Snowballs: the faith schools debate
December 2001. 7500 words. In this article I note that churches and other religious groups already own about a quarter of England's state-funded schools, and I question the wisdom of the New Labour government's ambition to create more faith schools.

Time to Rethink Religious Education?
September 2000. 1950 words. In this article I question whether religious education is a suitable vehicle for teaching children about good and evil and for developing tolerance and respect, and whether there is in fact a fundamental contradiction between education and religion.

King's Manor School - an experiment in privatisation?
June 1999. 3860 words. King's Manor School in Guildford was the first state school in England to be handed over to a private company. In this article I outline the events which led to the privatisation and question the political motives behind it.

New Labour - New Values?
June 1997. 3070 words. Written a few weeks after the general election of May 1997, this piece was an early attempt to assess the education policies of Tony Blair's 'New Labour' government.

Children's needs and interests and the National Curriculum
June 1995. 2280 words. In this article I discuss whether the school curriculum should be based on children's needs and interests and, if so, how this could be done with a content-based National Curriculum.

Educational Philosophy: does it exist in the 1990s?
September 1992. 1850 words. In her article Where is the guiding star? in the Summer 1992 issue of Forum, Liz Thomson pleads for an informed debate among professionals about the issues raised by the report of the so-called 'Three Wise Men' on primary education. This article is my contribution to that debate.

Facing the Problem of Bullying in Schools
January 1992. 4350 words. In this article, I describe the work on bullying undertaken at Marston Middle School Oxford between 1989 and 1997. It includes the rules and procedures of the School Bully Court, the text of a Bullying Questionnaire, a list of useful addresses and suggestions for further reading.

Deconstructing the Bible: interpretive possibilities
August 1991. 4030 words. In this article I consider the interpretive possibilities inherent in deconstructionist readings of the biblical text such as those offered by feminist hermeneutics.

The Multifaith Society: problem or opportunity?
August 1991. 3230 words. In this article I consider whether the presence of a variety of religions in a modern society presents a problem or an opportunity for religious education.

Agreed Syllabuses 1944-1988: Changing aims - changing content?
January 1991. 6640 words. Between the major Education Acts of 1944 and 1988 the aims of religious education had changed dramatically. In this article, I survey a number of Agreed Syllabuses for Religious Education to assess the extent to which the content had changed to reflect the new aims.

On being beaten about the head
June 1989. 1800 words. In this article I describe what it was like to be a head teacher at a time when schools were being relentlessly criticised by politicians and the media, and when policies of which I disapproved were being imposed by the government.

Some principles for school managers
March 1988. 2000 words. In this article I draw on my own experience to suggest seven basic principles which should underpin a successful school headship.

The National Curriculum and the role of the primary teacher in curriculum development
March 1988. 2230 words. Written just before the introduction of the National Curriculum, this piece attempts to assess the likely impact of an imposed curriculum on the primary teacher's role as curriculum developer.

Whatever happened to the integrated curriculum?
October 1987. 1470 words. The integrated curriculum, popular in primary schools in the 1960s and 70s, had sought to break down traditional subject barriers in order to make learning more meaningful, relevant and stimulating for children. In this article, written as the subject-based National Curriculum was being prepared, I assess the arguments for curriculum integration.

Is the core curriculum ideal valid and feasible?
April 1987. 2060 words. Prime Minister Jim Callaghan's speech at Ruskin College on 18 October 1976 had set in motion the 'Great Debate' about the school curriculum which culminated in the imposition of the National Curriculum twelve years later. In this article I present some of the views about the curriculum which were circulating during this period and attempt to analyse the arguments.

Plowden and the Primary Curriculum: twenty years on
March 1987. 2020 words. 'The Plowden Report has been misquoted, misunderstood, over-simplified, torn to shreds by academics and used by a few schools to justify some fairly mindless practice' (TES 6 March 1987). In this article, written on the twentieth anniversary of the report's publication, I assess the impact Plowden had had on primary education in England.

The Management of Selecting, Appraising and Developing Staff
September 1987. 1630 words. In this article I argue that teachers are a school's most important resource and I put forward suggestions for an effective school policy for the selection, appraisal and development of staff.

School Governing Bodies: do they have a clear role?
June 1987. 1680 words. In this article I survey the history of school governing bodies and examine their traditional role. I note that Margaret Thatcher's government had given parents a much greater say in the running of schools, and consider whether this had made the role of the governors any clearer.

The Chief Education Officer: the real master of local educational provision?
March 1987. 2080 words. It used to be claimed that the real master of local educational provision was the Chief Education Officer. In this article I assess the extent to which this had been true and examine how the many changes in educational administration during the 1970s and 80s had affected the role of the CEO.

MA Dissertation

Rewriting Oxfordshire's Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education post 1988
June 1992. 25000 words. Between 1990 and 1992 I was a member of the Working Party charged with producing a new Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education for Oxfordshire. This dissertation contains an account of the process and an analysis of the resulting Syllabus.

Book Reviews

listed in reverse chronological order (most recent first)

Creativity in the English Curriculum
Lorna Smith (2023)
Lorna Smith examines how creativity has been seen by the writers of education policy documents over many years; analyses the nature of creativity and its place as a vital ingredient of a humane education; and offers suggestions as to how teachers can work within the statutory framework and yet provide children with opportunities to be creative.

Susan Isaacs: A Life Freeing the Minds of Children
Philip Graham (2023)
Philip Graham's biography of Susan Isaacs is a fascinating story of the intertwining lives of a number of flawed and damaged human beings and an invaluable account of the development of ideas in education, psychology and psychoanalysis during the first half of the twentieth century.

Sally Tomlinson (2022)
The 1942 Beveridge Report identified five 'giant' impediments to social progress: Want, Disease, Squalor, Ignorance, and Idleness. Eighty years on, Sally Tomlinson considers whether ignorance has been banished or whether, as a result of government policies and recent crises, it is now on the rise again.

Education in Spite of Policy
Robin Alexander (2022)
Drawing on conference keynotes, journal and newspaper articles, briefings and a blog covering the period 2006 to 2021, Robin Alexander examines the relationship between the evidence provided by educational research and the use (or misuse) made of it by politicians.

What is Education about?
Geoffrey Marshall (2021)
Geoffrey Marshall, a primary school head for 35 years, sets out the case for child-centred education and bemoans the policies of successive administrations which, he argues, have turned education into a government-run training programme.

Mary Warnock: Ethics, Education and Public Policy in Post-War Britain
Philip Graham (2021)
Mary Warnock is best known for chairing the committees which produced Special Educational Needs (1978) and Human Fertilisation and Embryology (1984). But there was much more to her life than that, as Philip Graham's excellent biography makes clear.

Enfield Voices: The Birth of the People's Universities
edited by Tom Bourner and Tony Crilly (2018)
With contributions from 28 former colleagues, Tom Bourner and Tony Crilly tell the remarkable story of Enfield College of Technology which, between 1962 and 1973, pioneered an innovative approach to higher education.

Who Cares About Education? ... going in the wrong direction
Eric Macfarlane (2016)
Eric Macfarlane provides a critique of the education policies of successive governments - particularly their obsession with the academic - and suggests ways in which we might start to repair the damage they have done.

Grammar School Boy: a memoir of personal and social development 1941-1961
John Quicke (2016)
How do successful former grammar school pupils from relatively humble backgrounds look back on their education? This is the central theme of John Quicke's personal memoir, which covers the first twenty years of his life.

The Passing of a Country Grammar School
Peter Housden (2015)
Peter Housden tells the story of how Market Drayton Grammar School in Shropshire, which celebrated its 400th anniversary in November 1955, became The Grove Comprehensive School in 1965.

Living on the Edge: rethinking poverty, class and schooling
John Smyth and Terry Wrigley (2013)
As governments pursue ruthless austerity, Smyth and Wrigley look at the effects of class and poverty on children and argue that more humane education policies are desperately needed.

Education under Siege
Peter Mortimore (2013)
Our state education system is in a mess and the current government seems to be hell-bent on destroying it altogether. Peter Mortimore explains the history and puts forward his suggestions for a better system.

New Labour and Secondary Education, 1994-2010
Clyde Chitty (2013)
To what extent did Labour's educational philosophy change with the election of Tony Blair as leader in 1994? And did his 'New Labour' government implement policies which reflected that philosophy? Clyde Chitty explains.

Politics and the Primary Teacher
Peter Cunningham (2012)
The politicisation of education has increased dramatically in the past thirty years as governments have sought to micro-manage the curriculum, pedagogy and teacher training. Peter Cunningham presents the facts as a basis for stimulating thoughtful and constructive debate.

School Wars: The Battle for Britain's Education
Melissa Benn (2011)
Are current government policies increasing the divisiveness of England's state education system? Could they even result in its effective destruction? Melissa Benn assesses the evidence and offers her suggestions for a more positive future for our schools.

Children, their World, their Education
edited by Robin Alexander (2010)
The final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review - the first in-depth investigation of primary education since Plowden - is long, comprehensive and thoughtful.

Education Policy in Britain (Second edition)
Clyde Chitty (2009)
An updated and expanded edition of Chitty's 2004 book (see below). Several of the chapters have been revised and updated; a new chapter on the privatisation of education has been added; higher education is now treated in a separate chapter; and the concluding chapter has been completely rewritten.

School behaviour management (two books)
Developing Schoolwide Programs to Prevent and Manage Problem Behaviors
Lane, Kalberg and Menzies (2009)
Conducting School-Based Functional Behavioral Assessments
Steege and Watson (2009)
Two American publications which promote particular approaches to the problem of identifying and dealing with problem behaviour - 'positive behaviour support' and 'functional behavioural assessment'.

Supporting the emotional work of school leaders
Belinda Harris (2007)
Political interference has not only damaged education in England, it has been traumatic for teachers and pupils. Harris rejects the task and performance models of school improvement which politicians have imposed and seeks 'to place people, relationships and learning back in the driving seat of change'.

Faith Schools: consensus or conflict?
Roy Gardner, Jo Cairns and Denis Lawton (eds) (2005)
This book aims to present 'a balanced debate and evaluation of the issues involved in the continuing and expanded provision of faith based education in our present society'.

The Professionals: better teachers, better schools
Phil Revell (2005)
The training of teachers is now an extraordinary mess. What should be done to sort it out and establish a coherent scheme for training tomorrow's teachers? That is the question which Revell seeks to answer in this very readable book.

Education Policy in Britain
Clyde Chitty (2004)
Chitty's book continues the work of Brian Simon, who sought to illustrate the inseparability of history and practice. It aims to stimulate an informed debate about how we got where we are now, and where we go from here.

Who Controls Teachers' Work?
Richard M Ingersoll (2003)
Ingersoll sets out to answer three sets of questions: Are schools centralised or decentralised? Do schools have the means to control the work of teachers and hold teachers accountable? Does school centralisation or decentralisation matter?

Faith-based Schools and the State
Harry Judge (2002)
This book concerns the development of the relationship between the church - mainly but not exclusively the Roman Catholic Church - and the state's provision of education in three countries - England, France and the US - over the past two hundred years.

The Best Policy? Honesty in education 1997-2001
Paul Francis (2001)
Written over two years and completed in the run up to the 2001 general election, Paul Francis's book is an analysis of the way the Labour government's policy on education during its first term was undermined by dishonesty.

Love and Chalkdust
Paul Francis (2000)
Like JL Carr's The Harpole Report (1972), this novel follows a year in the life of a school, documenting the inter-personal tensions, the institutional crises and the bureaucratic nonsense with which schools and teachers are bombarded, now on a daily basis. Like Harpole, too, it does so with great humour and humanity.

State Schools - New Labour and the Conservative Legacy
Clyde Chitty and John Dunford (eds) (1999)
Chitty and Dunford have assembled a series of essays which examine the situation in the country's schools mainly from the perspective of the head teacher but also from a variety of viewpoints. It notes the depressing effects of government education policies on schools and teachers.

Experience and Education: towards an alternative National Curriculum
Gwyn Edwards and AV Kelly (eds) (1998)
Edwards and Kelly remind us that before the 1988 Education Reform Act teachers actually discussed the aims and purposes of education. They plead for a genuinely open debate to identify the essential components of a national curriculum for a democratic society.

Bullying: Home, School and Community
Delwyn Tattum and Graham Herbert (eds) (1997)
This book includes interesting accounts of a wide range of projects run by schools and other organisations.

Bullying in Schools And what to do about it
Ken Rigby (1996)
Rigby seeks to understand the nature of bullying and gives very practical advice.

A Community Approach to Bullying
Peter Randall (1996)
Randall takes a broad look at bullying and suggests ways in which communities can tackle it.

Teacher Education and Human Rights
Audrey Osler and Hugh Starkey (1996)
This book is a timely reminder that education is about more than standards and basic skills.

Troubled and Vulnerable Children: a practical guide for heads
Shelagh Webb (1994)
This book covers a variety of issues including children's rights in education.

Supporting Schools against Bullying
Scottish Council for Research in Education (1994)
This is the second anti-bullying pack from SCRE, focusing on families, parents' groups and non-teaching staff.

Bullying: a practical guide to coping for schools
Michelle Elliott (1992)
The founder of Kidscape has assembled a series of useful chapters from a range of contributors and gives advice on the formulation and implementation of an anti-bullying policy.

Financial Delegation and Management of Schools: preparing for practice
Hywel Thomas with Gordon Kirkpatrick and Elizabeth Nicholson (1989)
This training manual for heads and governors covers a wide range of topics.

Reforming Religious Education: the religious clauses of the 1988 Education Reform Act
Edwin Cox and Josephine M Cairns (1989)
Cairns considers the legal, social and cultural background to the 1988 Act; Cox examines the provisions of the Act and points out some of the problems which they raise.

Re-thinking Active Learning 8-16
Norman Beswick (1987)
Beswick considers the educational use of computers, which were just beginning to appear in schools. He makes the case for project work and argues that the new technology would not render books obsolete.

Two Cultures of Schooling: the case of middle schools
Andy Hargreaves (1986)
Hargreaves takes a critical (sometimes depressing) look at middle schools. He relates their origins and history, analyses their differing approaches to organisation and teaching styles, and discusses the training and backgrounds of their teachers.

School Policies

Written by the staff of Marston Middle School Oxford, these policies present a snapshot of the thinking of one school's staff in the 1990s. (Marston Middle School was closed in July 2003 as part of the reorganisation of schools in Oxford.)

Behaviour in School
March 1996

Equal Opportunities
July 1990

Gifted Pupils
January 1994

Special Needs
June 1993

Staff Development
September 1990