What and how should we teach children? – 17 November Debate on Callaghan’s 1976 Speech

Invitation to a debate

Callaghan’s Ruskin Speech

17 November. 4-6pm

House of Lords 

Free but you need to book

Full details and booking form and be obtained from www.soss.org.uk – click on the Eventbrite box to book a FREE TICKET

Forty years ago, Prime Minister James Callaghan gave a speech on education at Ruskin College. It was a landmark statement which changed political attitudes to schooling. Previously politicians had not commented on what happened inside schools. Since the speech they have hardly stopped doing so.

This seminar in the House of Lords will explore the speech and its significance. Was this the turning point towards the regime of hyperaccountability and performance tables we now see dominating English education?

Speakers will be Lord Bernard Donoughue, Head of the Number 10 Policy Unit in 1976, Lord David Blunkett, Secretary of State for Education 1997-2001, and Fiona Millar, journalist and broadcaster. Chair Professor Richard Pring, University of Oxford.

A background briefing Callaghan’s 1976 Speech on Education:
Education’s Tipping Point? is also available free on the SOSS (Symposium on Sustainable Schools) website here

Some key points made by Callaghan

Question: ‘what do we want from the education of our children and young people?’

‘The traditional concern of the whole Labour movement is for the education of our children and young people on whom the future of the country must depend.’

‘The goals of our education, from nursery school through to adult education  are …. to equip children to the best of their ability for a lively, constructive, place in society, and also to fit them to do a job of work. Not one or the other but both.’

‘There is now widespread recognition of the need to cater for a child’s personality to let it flower in its fullest possible way.’

‘(P)arents, teachers, learned and professional bodies, representatives of higher education and both sides of industry, together with the government, all have an important part to play in formulating and expressing the purpose of education and the standards that we need.’

‘(T)here is the concern about the standards of numeracy of school-leavers. Is there not a case for a professional review of the mathematics needed by industry at different levels? To what extent are these deficiencies the result of insufficient co-operation between schools and industry? Indeed, how much of the criticism about basic skills and attitudes is due to industry’s own shortcomings rather than to the educational system?

‘I am inclined to think there should be’ ‘a basic curriculum with universal standards.’

‘(W)e must carry the teaching profession with us. They have the expertise and the professional approach.’

Teachers ‘must satisfy the parents and industry that what you are doing meets their requirements and the needs of our children.’

‘In today’s world, higher standards are demanded than were required yesterday and there are simply fewer jobs for those without skill. Therefore we demand more from our schools than did our grandparents.’

The full text of the speech is in this pdf here




About seancreighton1947

Since moving to Norbury in July 2011 I have been active on local economy issues with Croydon TUC and Croydon Assembly, and am a member of the latter's Environment Forum. I am a member of the 5 Norbury Residents Associations Joint Planning Committee, and a Governor of Norbury Manor Primary School. I write for Croydon Citizen at http://thecroydoncitizen.com. I co-ordinate the Samuel Coleridge-Taylor and Croydon Radical History Networks and advise the North East People's History Project.. I give history talks and lead history walks. I retired in 2012 having worked in the community/voluntary sector and on heritage projects. My history interests include labour movement, mutuality, Black British, slavery & abolition, Edwardian roller skating and the social and political use of music and song. I have a particular interest in the histories of Battersea and Wandsworth, Croydon and Lambeth. I have a publishing imprint History & Social Action Publications.
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