Trenaman (1981)

1981 Trenaman Report (text)


The Trenaman Report (1981)
Review of the Schools Council

London: Department of Education and Science 1981
Crown copyright material is reproduced with the permission of the Controller of HMSO and the Queen's Printer for Scotland.


Background notes

Historical context

The 'Schools Council for the Curriculum and Examinations' was established in 1964 to disseminate ideas about curricular reform in England and Wales and to take over the functions of the Secondary School Examinations Council.

In the mid 1970s right-wing Tories began calling for the Council's abolition, and the Labour government's 1976 'Yellow Book' School Education in England: problems and initiatives described its performance as 'generally mediocre'.

Nancy Trenaman

In March 1981 Education Secretary Mark Carlisle told the Commons that he had invited Nancy Trenaman (1919-2002) (pictured) 'to review the functions, constitution and methods of work of the Schools Council and to make recommendations' (page ii).

Trenaman read English at Somerville College Oxford. She entered the Civil Service and rose to become Assistant Secretary in the Ministry of Materials, Counsellor at the British Embassy in Washington, and Under-Secretary at the Board of Trade. She was appointed Principal of St Anne's College Oxford in 1966.

The report

In its confidential (but leaked) evidence to Trenaman, the Department of Education and Science claimed that the Council was too pro-teacher and hostile to the Department, and proposed its replacement by a single body of nominees.

Trenaman rejected this suggestion and recommended that, subject to changes in its Constitution, 'the Schools Council should continue and with its present functions' and that 'The Council should not be made the subject of further external review for at least five years from the date of this report' (page 47).

Its advice ignored

Keith Joseph, who became Education Secretary on 14 September 1981, ignored Trenaman's advice and, in a move clearly designed to reduce the influence of teachers in curriculum development, announced that the Schools Council would be disbanded on 31 January 1984, and replaced by two smaller committees: the Secondary Examinations Council (SEC) and the School Curriculum Development Committee (SCDC).

John Mann, Secretary of the Schools Council and a highly respected former Chief Education Officer, warned that Keith Joseph was opening the door to abuse by a future 'unscrupulous secretary of state'. The separation of examinations from the curriculum in the new arrangement, he said, could only be interpreted 'as a move to greater central control of what happened in schools' (The Times Educational Supplement 30 April 1982).

The report online

The complete report is presented in a single web page. The page numbering is that of the original printed version. I have corrected a dozen or so typing errors. The archaic word 'afforced' appears several times: it means reinforced or augmented.

The text of the 1981 Trenaman Report and the above notes were prepared by Derek Gillard. The report was uploaded on 20 September 2017; the notes on 4 June 2021.