A Study of the Impact of the DES Pamphlet "Curriculum Organisation and Classroom Practice in Primary Schools: A Discussion Paper"

Wenham, Peter D. (1994). A Study of the Impact of the DES Pamphlet "Curriculum Organisation and Classroom Practice in Primary Schools: A Discussion Paper". MPhil thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000ff30

Abstract

The DES pamphlet Curriculum Organisation and Classroom Practice in Primary Schools: A Discussion Paper published in January 1992 represented a governmental initiative with regard to pedagogy. This study examines the political arid educational context in which the Discussion Paper was prepared and disseminated including the policies of the 'New Right', intensification of teachers' work, 'progressivism' in the primary sector and the debate over standards. Reference to these four topics will be made throughout.

The study explores two main themes. The 'career' of the Discussion Paper is considered as it progressed from its commissioning and publication in London to schools and classrooms. Its immediate impact on the media - particularly the press - will be analysed. Its subsequent influence on one Local Authority in the context of diminution of Local Authority power and on four primary schools in that Local Authority will be assessed. Although there is evidence which suggests that the Discussion Paper had some influence on the policies of head teachers and the practices of teachers its impact was limited because its recommendations were not mandatory and schools were preoccupied with implementing the legal requirements of the National Curriculum.

The second theme relates to the manner in which the Discussion Paper was, in turn, mediated in a chain reaction by various agencies or 'interest groups'. Each, to some extent, refashioned the Discussion Paper in its preferred image. For example, the intentions of the Secretary of State in commissioning the Discussion Paper are considered. The ways in which the press reported the Discussion Paper in a climate of 'moral panic’ with the prospect of a general election is analysed. The conflict of the 'interest groups' represented during the writing of the Paper which serve to explain its characteristics is studied. Reference is also made to its reception by the academic community and some of the varied responses are noted. Following its delivery to schools and Local Authorities the response of one LEA - Buckinghamshire - and the manner in which this Local Authority mediated it to schools is outlined. The ways in which head teachers, in turn, mediated the Discussion Paper to their staffs is analysed together with the strategies employed by class teachers in response. The study suggests that in schools the Discussion Paper was used as a kind of resource. Head, teachers and class teachers appropriated it for their own purposes. For example some recommendations were selected to legitimise current or new school policies and classroom practices while others were ignored or rejected.

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