The info page
About the site
Education and training
After attending Cove Junior School in Farnborough 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 (Bob) Smith, was a member of the Central Advisory Council which produced the Plowden Report.
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.
In 1989 Clyde Chitty, the editor of Forum, invited me to join the editorial board of the journal, which was founded by Brian Simon and Robin Pedley in 1958 to campaign 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.
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).
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.
My views on education
The views which underpin my own writing are as follows:
About the site
My first website, created in 1998, contained an education section consisting of 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 Education in England: a brief history.
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.
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.
Content and principles
The site now contains the texts of more than 600 historic education documents, 30 articles, and 32 book reviews.
Education in England: a brief history was revised and updated several times, and a completely new version was published in May 2018. At almost half a million words in length, 'brief' no longer seems an appropriate description, so it is now entitled simply Education in England: a history.
The site is founded on the following principles:
Education in England has not been optimised for use on mobile devices because the vast majority of visitors (around 90 per cent) use desktop or laptop computers, which is unsurprising given the nature and content of the site.
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 termly 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.
The list contains only names and email addresses. I never pass on an email address without first asking the owner for permission to do so. Termly updates are sent out in batches of around a hundred to 'undisclosed recipients'.
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 four weeks (dark blue) and in the equivalent weeks last year (light blue).
The fall in the number of visitors this year compared with last year is largely due to a drop in the number of UK visitors. Is this because we now have fewer student teachers?
It used to be the case that around half of visitors were based in the UK, and between an eighth and a quarter (depending on the time of year) in the US. This is no longer true, however: as noted above, the number of UK visitors is falling, while China has overtaken the US in second place.