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This report is taken from PN Review 93, Volume 20 Number 1, September - October 1993.

Teacher action and the National Curriculum James Sale

The recent teacher union support for a boycott of the National Curriculum Assessment Tests should not be too surprising, given its provenance. Full marks have to be awarded to Nigel Gruchy and the NAS/UWT for gauging the mood so well, and judging the legal situation so nicely. Perhaps for the first time in years one feels proud to say: 'I am a teacher and my professional opinion counts.' But what of this provenance?

To understand this we must establish a context. The 1944 Education Act set the framework within which teachers operated, and two of its features seem worth remarking. First, no subject except Religious Education was compulsory. This gave Local Education Authorities, head teachers, and teachers generally a field day in which to interpret what providing an education meant. It may with hindsight be argued that it lacked rigour and coherence, and I am quite certain that teachers' initial acceptance of the National Curriculum was an admission of this. Whatever its shortcomings, the 1988 Reform Act was startling in its reversal of subject fortunes: ten whole subjects became essential - in, as it turned out, varying degrees of essentialness - and Religious Education was all but a side show (until more and very recent developments).

The second feature: the 1944 Act established that education was to be provided up to a certain age according to 'age, aptitude and ability:The expression has a kind of robust virility: you get what you achieve. On the other ...

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