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Primary school during the early 1980s

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  • #16
    I have found a primary school prospectus from 1982. The school is located in Evesham, Worcestershire, in the (now defunct) Hereford and Worcester LEA.

    “All areas of the curriculum are planned by the Headmaster and Staff who carry out continual assessment of the teaching and its results.” This implies that the LEA operates a ‘light touch’ approach and allows each and every primary school to set its own curriculum.

    “The Reading Scheme followed is Reading 360 (Ginn)… …We would discourage parents from trying to obtain copies of this scheme.” Why exactly should a school discourage parents from trying to obtain copies of this scheme?

    “A central scheme of Scottish Primary Mathematics (Heinemann) is followed by all children…” This was officially intended for schools in Scotland but it was also adopted by some schools outside of Scotland. Would it be possible for schools in England to use books and educational resources intended for use in Scotland nowadays?

    “Sex education is taught by following the BBC television series”. Does anybody know exactly which series this was?

    “Religious education is statutory within the State system, is undenominational in character, and is taught in accordance with an agreed syllabus. The school day normally begins with an act of collective worship. Questions of religious differences can be discussed with the Head”. Does anybody have any details of the agreed syllabus? Exactly what questions can be discussed with the Head?

    “Should I teach him / her to read? The short answer is No! Very often familiarity with different reading material only serves to confuse children when they meet school reading material for the first time.” Was this a prevailing attitude nationally back in the 1980s or just the opinion of the teachers at a particular school? Would any teachers hold the same position now?

    “Mathematical concepts are best taught by a skilled teacher”. Do the teachers distrust parents? The prospectus states that Scottish Primary Mathematics (Heinemann) is used by the school, so if parents teach according to the concepts in this series then it should not be a problem.

    “Very often children who are given extra tuition after school spend their school days trying to avoid the work set by their teacher. This, of course, is a waste of everyone’s time.” I did say that Teachers were not keen on students who were too clever back in the 1980s! However, nothing is mentioned about children who get ahead of the curriculum for their year group through self education as opposed to being tutored.

    “The school and the local Authority have very clearly organised structures to deal with children experiencing problems during the school career. This applies to all children regardless of ability. We recognise that the more able child deserves just as much of our attention”. Does this imply that the school acknowledges that children who are average or above average academically for their year grouo can have SEN, as opposed to SEN being reserved for children who are below average academically for their year group? The prevailing view in the 1980s was that children only had SEN if they were behind academically in the main subjects, and if children were average or above average academically in the main subjects it was a behavioural issue.

    Nothing is mentioned in the prospects about science or computers. Does this imply that the school did not teach science or have any computers in its possession?


    • #17
      I would love to find more old school prospectuses. They provide insight into life at the school and the prevailing attitudes at the time.


      • #18
        Originally posted by George 1978 View Post
        As a footnote, my Primary (Infant and Juniors) years were 1983 to 1989 - we had the Joyce Grenfell-alike Infant teachers even as late as 1985, the small pints of milk, the "sit on the carpet until home time" and so on
        The culture of primary school teaching was very different in the 'carefree' 1980 to the era of the National Curriculum and Ofsted where government officials are watching every teacher like a hawk and results are everything. Teachers now have to be trained in PREVENT and (so called) British Values, but such training would be considered crazy back in the 1980s.

        The introduction of the National Curriculum was difficult and painful as it resulted in primary school teachers having to teach things that they didn't know much about. This probably explains why in KS2 I had a timetable for the entire week, and had different teachers for certain subjects. A teacher with expertise in computers will teach ICT but they might not be able to teach religious studies or music, and vice versa.

        I had regular homework in KS2 for English, maths, and science, along with some homework in other subjects.

        I make an intelligent guess that kids knew more about computers than their teachers did in the 1980s. The proliferation of home computers must have added in a new dimension to the lives of children in the 1980s in a way that no previous technology did. Primary schools generally did not teach ICT until this side of 1990. In fact, many teachers were quite opposed to computers being used as word processors and other 'office' type tasks, and demanded that all school and homework be hand written, until ICT became an official part of the school curriculum.

        My primary school had ICT lessons but everything was structured around an assumption that students did not have a computer at home. Nothing at my school was online, and all communication was paper based like it was in the 1980s. In more recent years, primary schools have operated with an assumption that every family has broadband internet at home.

        They had small bottles of milk at my primary school in the 1990s but only for kids in reception class and KS1. The bottles may have been a local thing at the time, where schools almost everywhere else had milk in cartons, but were bottles more commonplace in the early 1980s? They didn't have bottles at my mother's primary school back in the 1970s.


        • #19
          I went to primary school in inner London during the 60's and very early 70's. Milk bottles disappeared around 1970 to be replaced by cartons, approximately quarter pints I would have thought.

          I remember some of us didn't particularly care for milk and would do our utmost to avoid drinking it. Eventually the headmaster cottoned on, rounded up the offenders and we each reacived a slap on the backside.
          Unthinkable by today's standards!


          • #20
            I'm wondering if it was more commonplace for teachers to provide misinformation about things or teach factually incorrect material back in the early 1980s.

            A teacher at my mother's primary school in the 1970s taught the class to do mixed calculations from left to right rather than according to BIDMAS, as in 2 + 3 x 4 = 20 whereas 2 + 3 x 4 = 14 is correct, and (2 + 3) x 4 = 20. My mother knew that doing mixed calculations from left to right was wrong and that multiplication had to be done before addition, but it ended up resulting in a big argument.


            • #21
              I always learned to do mixed calculations the proper way at primary school, but then I'm from the National Curriculum era.

              I have anecdotal evidence that primary schools generally didn't teach as many mathematical topics in the early 1980s. I covered probability, mean mode median, cartesian co-ordinates, and even simple algebra in KS2. Most people who I have met who attended primary school before the National Curriculum didn't learn these until secondary school.

              One controversy that occured at my primary school was when kids stated that bike stabilisers don't actually work. The parent's guide requested that all children use stabilisers on their bike until they are 6 years old, and not to attempt to learn to ride without stabilisers before then.