The info page

About me

Derek Gillard
   Education and training
   Teaching career
   Education in England
   Forum
   Views on education

About the website

History of the site
   Origins
   Growth

The site today
   Content and principles
   Technical stuff
   Mailing list
   Visitor statistics

The future
   Chris Horsington


About me

Derek Gillard

Education and training

After attending Cove Junior School in Farnborough (school photo left) and then Godalming Grammar School in Surrey, I did my initial teacher training from 1963 to 1966 at Westminster College, which had just moved from London into new buildings on Harcourt Hill to the west of Oxford. My two main subjects (in addition to education) were music and divinity.

It was a time of great creativity and innovation in education. Most local authorities were getting rid of the eleven plus exam and introducing comprehensive schools, and the Plowden Report on primary education was about to be published.

My second teaching practice was at Bampton CE Primary School, where child-centred education was very much in evidence. The head teacher, Mr RT Smith, was a member of the Central Advisory Council which produced the Plowden Report.

Teaching career

My first teaching post was in Guildford, Surrey. The accommodation at St John's CE Primary School consisted of a converted house in the Farnham Road so the classrooms were very cramped, but there was a friendly family atmosphere. The head, Mrs Walford, a delightful elderly Scot, lived next door.

After my first year we moved into Queen Eleanor's CE Primary School, which had previously been a secondary school, so we now had much bigger classrooms, a good gym and even a small swimming pool in the quadrangle. I taught general subjects to (large!) classes of nine/ten year olds.

After four years I transferred to Westborough County Primary School, also in Guildford, where, in addition to my general class teaching duties, I was responsible for the teaching of music throughout the school.

In August 1972 I moved to Northampton and was appointed music teacher at Kingsthorpe CE Primary School.

A year later, the town's schools were reorganised into first, middle and upper schools and I transferred to Bective Middle School (in buildings which had been a boys' secondary school since it opened in 1934). John Allsebrook was an inspirational head to work for, a real visionary. I spent eleven happy years at Bective, teaching in a variety of capacities. For several years I was first year (now year 5) coordinator, then I specialised in teaching music and religious education, and finally I was appointed deputy head, a position I held for two years. (John Allsebrook died in 1994. Bective Middle School was amalgamated with St George's and renamed Northampton Middle School in 1997; Bective pupils transferred to the St George's campus in 1999 and the Bective buildings were finally demolished in 2002).

In 1985 I was appointed to my first headship at Christ Church CE Middle School in Ealing, West London. In three busy years we compiled a staff handbook which included curriculum documents and school policies, and we worked with the local authority on developing good equal opportunities practices in all aspects of the school including recruitment and selection procedures. We also piloted a staff appraisal scheme - before being required to do so by the government!

During my time in Ealing I undertook a two year part-time course at the University of London Institute of Education (ULIE), leading to the award of Diploma in Education. The areas I chose to focus on were curriculum studies and the management and administration of education in the UK.

I took up my second headship at Marston Middle School Oxford (pictured) in January 1989. During the 1990s our work on bullying was featured in the local and national press and on radio and television (see my article Facing the Problem of Bullying in Schools for more details).

This was not an easy period in education. Like all schools, we had to cope with the introduction of the National Curriculum and local management (ie managing our own budget), while successive years of Tory education budget cuts resulted in the loss of some able staff.

During my time at Marston I undertook a further two year part-time course at ULIE, which resulted in the award of MA in religious education. The topics covered included the aims and history of religious education, moral and spiritual education and values education. (My Dip Ed and MA essays and my MA dissertation can all be found in the Articles section).

Education in England

I retired from full-time teaching in 1997 (at the age of 52) with very mixed feelings. I loved the job, especially the daily interactions with staff and pupils, but had become weary of the ever-increasing political interference in schools.

Since then, I have devoted my time to creating Education in England and hope to continue expanding the site for some years yet.

Forum

In addition to working on Education in England, for 17 years I was a member of the editorial board of Forum, the journal founded by Brian Simon and Robin Pedley in 1958, which campaigns for comprehensive education.

Many of my articles and book reviews were originally written for Forum and although I retired from the editorial board in January 2014, I continue to contribute to the journal.

My views on education

The views which underpin my own writing are as follows:

  • education should be a public service, provided by the state through democratically accountable local authorities (no privatisation, academies, free schools etc);
  • all schools should be comprehensive (no selection);
  • no 'faith schools' of any sort should be financed by the taxpayer;
  • private schools perpetuate class divisions and inequality and should be phased out;
  • teachers should receive proper training (including studies of the history, philosophy and psychology of education); and
  • teaching should be recognised as a profession alongside medicine and the law.


About the website

History of the site

Origins

I created my first website in 1998. It consisted mostly of miscellaneous personal material including weekly comments on the news and on religious matters (from a sceptical viewpoint). There was also an education section containing the essays and dissertation I had written for my DipEd and MA courses at the University of London Institute of Education in the 1980s.

In 2001 I added the notes for a lecture on the history of education in England which I gave annually from 1998 to 2003 to groups of American teachers taking part in a summer school in Oxford. These notes became the basis of my Brief History of Education in England.

By the beginning of 2004 one of the articles - about the Plowden Report - was attracting a significant number of 'hits' and emails began to arrive asking where copies of the report could be found. As Plowden had long been out of print and was not available online, I applied for - and was granted - a licence from HMSO to put the text of the report on the website. I retyped the first thirty pages before someone suggested that a scanner might be quicker! An Epson flat-bed scanner was bought and by the end of October 2004 the complete Plowden Report was online.

Growth

A series of articles about Plowden followed in 2005, and in 2006 work began on the six Hadow reports. By this time it was clear that education had become the dominant - and certainly the most visited - part of the site, so in May 2006 the other sections were removed and the site was renamed Education in England.

In 2007 the flatbed scanner was replaced by a Fujitsu sheet-feed model. Coupled with new optical character recognition software, this enabled documents to be scanned and prepared for the web far more quickly. As a result, by January 2010 the site had filled the 50mb of disk space allowed by its original internet service provider, so in April 2010 it was moved to a new web host (1and1 Internet) and adopted its current domain name (educationengland.org.uk).


The site today

Content and principles

Education in England now contains more than 470 historic education documents. The Brief History has been revised and updated several times and is currently undergoing a further revision which should be available in summer 2017. And there are now thirty articles and thirty book reviews.

The site is founded on the following principles:

Education in England is created, maintained and paid for by Derek Gillard as a private individual. It has no sponsors and carries no paid advertising. It is thus entirely independent of all commercial interests and political groups etc.

Technical stuff

Education in England is created and maintained on an Apple iMac and hosted by 1and1 Internet. HTML code is written using Apple's TextEdit program; scanned documents are converted to text using ReadIris; pictures and graphics are produced with GraphicConverter; and files are uploaded using Fetch.

Education in England does not use cookies.

Mailing list

There are currently around 500 people on the mailing list. They include teachers and students, professors and lecturers, librarians and archivists, and members of the general public with an interest in education and/or history. Those on the list are sent occasional emails informing them of additions to the site.

If you'd like to be on the mailing list, just send me an email - contact details are here.

Visitor statistics

1and1 Internet, who host Education in England, provide weekly visitor data. This includes the number of 'unique visits' (one is recorded each time someone logs on to the site, regardless of how many pages they view), the geographical location of visitors, and the operating systems and web browsers used. Automated visits (by search engines, for example) are excluded, so the figures show only those visits made by actual human beings!

As you would expect, the number of visitors varies according to the time of the academic year: it rises during term time and falls during exam periods and the long summer vacation. The graph below shows the number of unique visits to the site in the past six weeks:

Around half of visitors are based in the UK and about a quarter in the US. Of the remainder - from elsewhere around the world - the countries with the highest visitor numbers are currently China, France and Germany.

The following graph shows the figures for week ending 20 March 2016, which are fairly typical:

Education in England has deliberately not been optimised for use on mobile devices (although it works quite satisfactorily on them). This is because the vast majority of visitors use desktop or laptop computers: only around 12 per cent of visits are made on mobile devices.

The future

Chris Horsington

Arrangements have been made to ensure the long-term future of Education in England. Chris Horsington will, in due course, take on the maintenance of the site and its domain name. He will bring to the site an interest in sports education.

Chris left school in the summer of 2012 and spent the following year as a classroom assistant in a local primary school, where the staff and children appreciated his enthusiasm and commitment. He found the role very rewarding and particularly enjoyed helping children with special needs.

For the past three years he has been pursuing a course in Educational Studies and Physical Education at the University of Worcester.