Here are the 30 articles I have written since 1987, my MA dissertation, 30 book reviews, and five school policies written by the staff of Marston Middle School Oxford in the 1990s when I was the head teacher.

On this page:

MA Dissertation
Book Reviews
School Policies


Turning in their graves? A tale of two coalitions
December 2012. 1200 words. Churchill's wartime coalition aimed to create a public education system which would be fair to and free for all. Successive governments have failed to live up to their vision and the present coalition government is dismantling the democratic edifice their predecessors created.

Hobson's Choice: education policies in the 2010 general election
July 2010. 3700 words. An analysis of the policies relating to families, children and education as presented to the electorate by the three main parties in their manifestos and those listed in the Coalition's Programme for Government; plus a few observations on the future of state education in England.

Short and Fraught: the history of primary education in England
June 2009. 8600 words. This piece seeks to provide the historical background to the two reports on primary education currently being undertaken: the Cambridge Primary Review and the government-appointed Independent Review of the Primary Curriculum.

Us and Them: a history of pupil grouping policies in England's schools
December 2008. 19,000 words. This article describes the ways in which pupils in England have been allocated to teaching groups during the period in which the state has provided education - roughly from 1860 to the present. It summarises relevant sections of government reports and white papers, the arguments made by educationists, and the findings of research projects.

Never Mind the Evidence: Blair's obsession with faith schools
May 2007. 8500 words. The Blair governments have sought to increase the number of schools controlled by churches and other religious groups despite a mass of evidence about the dangers of faith-based education and in the face of widespread professional, political and public concerns. This piece recounts the history and analyses the motives behind the policy.

Axes to Grind: the first five years of Blair's academies
April 2007. 5100 words. Academies - effectively private schools funded by the taxpayer - were the brainchild of Blair's education adviser Andrew Adonis. This piece recounts the history of the first five years of a very controversial experiment.

The Hadow Reports: an introduction
September 2006. 10,700 words. After some brief notes on the historical context and the membership of the Consultative Committees chaired by Sir WH Hadow, I summarise each of the six reports produced between 1923 and 1933 and conclude with some observations on the extent to which their recommendations were implemented.

Tricks of the Trade: whatever happened to teacher professionalism?
May 2005. 10,400 words. Why are teachers not taken seriously as professionals? In this article I survey the history of teaching in England, argue that teacher professionalism was a short-lived phenomenon which has been in decline for thirty years, and make some suggestions for rescuing the profession.

Food for Thought: child nutrition, the school dinner and the food industry
July 2003. 7100 words. Health experts are now seriously concerned that the diet of our children is unbalanced, with too much salt, sugar and fat and not enough fruit and vegetables. New Labour has sought to address the problem with a raft of 'healthy-eating' initiatives and nutritional standards for school meals. But is it doing enough? In this article, I recount the history of the school dinner and offer some suggestions for future government policy.

The Supply Teacher's Lot
March 2003. 3000 words. Ever thought of doing some supply teaching? Read my account of an actual afternoon's supply work first, and then think again! Every word is true - only the names have been changed to protect the guilty.

Creationism: bad science, bad religion, bad education
April 2002. 6200 words. In March 2002 it was reported that at least two state-funded schools in the UK were teaching their students 'creationism', a phenomenon previously limited to the US. In this article I outline the origins of such teaching, survey the criticisms of it and ask whether it is the inevitable outcome of Labour's love affair with religion.

Glass in their Snowballs: the faith schools debate
December 2001. 7500 words. Churches and other religious groups already own about a quarter of England's state-funded schools. Tony Blair's New Labour government wants them to run even more. In this article I survey the background, analyse the arguments for and against and conclude that England needs more faith schools like a hole in the head.

Time to Rethink Religious Education?
September 2000. 1950 words. What is the purpose of Religious Education? Is it a means of teaching children about right and wrong, good and evil? Is it a suitable vehicle for developing tolerance and respect? And is there in fact a fundamental contradiction between education and religion?

King's Manor School - an experiment in privatisation?
June 1999. 3860 words. King's Manor School in Guildford, Surrey, was the first state school in the UK to be handed over to a private company. In this article I outline the events which led to Surrey County Council's decision and question the political motives behind the Labour government's support for the move.

New Labour - New Values?
June 1997. 3070 words. Written a few weeks after Tony Blair's 'New Labour' Party won the UK General Election in 1997, this piece was an early attempt to assess the party's education policies.

Children's needs and interests and the National Curriculum
June 1995. 2280 words. Is there value in basing the curriculum on children's needs and interests? If so, can it be done with a National Curriculum which demands that six-year-olds learn about Florence Nightingale and the Crimean War?

Educational Philosophy: does it exist in the 1990s?
September 1992. 1850 words. In their report Curriculum Organisation and Classroom Practice in Primary Schools: a discussion paper the so-called 'Three Wise Men' (Robin Alexander, Chris Woodhead and Jim Rose) called for more specialist teaching and ability setting in primary schools. This article was my response to the report.

Facing the Problem of Bullying in Schools
January 1992. 4350 words. An account of the work on bullying undertaken at Marston Middle School Oxford between 1989 and 1997. Includes the Rules and Procedures of the School Bully Court, the text of the Bullying Questionnaire and a list of useful addresses and suggestions for further reading.

Deconstructing the Bible: interpretive possibilities
August 1991. 4030 words. A consideration of the interpretive possibilities inherent in deconstructionist readings of the biblical text such as those offered by feminist hermeneutics.

The Multifaith Society: problem or opportunity?
August 1991. 3230 words. Does the presence of a variety of religions in a modern society present a problem or an opportunity for Religious Education?

Agreed Syllabuses 1944-1988: Changing aims - changing content?
January 1991. 6640 words. Between the major Education Acts of 1944 and 1988, (both of which included sections on Religious Education) the aims of the subject changed dramatically. But did the content change to reflect the new aims? I analyse the aims and contents of a number of Agreed Syllabuses for Religious Education.

On being beaten about the head
June 1989. 1800 words. An account of my feelings as a head teacher on the receiving end of the relentless criticism of teachers by the Tories and the press, and having policies - of which I disapproved - forced on me by the then Tory government.

Some principles for school managers
March 1988. 2000 words. Taking 'manager' to mean head teacher, I draw on my own experience to suggest seven basic principles which should underpin a successful school headship.

The National Curriculum and the role of the primary teacher in curriculum development
March 1988. 2230 words. It seems extraordinary now to recall that teachers once actually had a say in what they taught. Written just before the introduction of the National Curriculum, this piece attempts to assess the likely impact of the imposed curriculum on the primary teacher's role as curriculum developer.

Whatever happened to the integrated curriculum?
October 1987. 1470 words. Anything which breaks down the traditional subject barriers and makes knowledge more meaningful, relevant and stimulating for children must be in the interest of effective education, mustn't it? So what happened to the integrated day? I assess the arguments for integration and note that the imminent introduction of a subject-based National Curriculum looked set to kill off the concept. (As indeed it has).

Is the core curriculum ideal valid and feasible?
April 1987. 2060 words. Prime Minister Jim Callaghan's speech at Ruskin College on 18 October 1976 set in motion the 'Great Debate' about the school curriculum which culminated in the imposition of the National Curriculum twelve years later. Here I present some of the views about the curriculum which circulated during the period and attempt to analyse the arguments.

Plowden and the Primary Curriculum: twenty years on
March 1987. 2020 words. 'The Plowden Report has been misquoted, misunderstood, over-simplified, torn to shreds by academics and used by a few schools to justify some fairly mindless practice.' (TES 6 March 1987) Written on the twentieth anniversary of the report's publication, this piece assesses the impact Plowden had on primary education in England. (The full text of the Plowden Report, articles about it and links to related websites can be found on this website in the Documents section).

The Management of Selecting, Appraising and Developing Staff
September 1987. 1630 words. An outline of the elements which need to go into an effective school policy for the selection, appraisal and development of staff.

School Governing Bodies: do they have a clear role?
June 1987. 1680 words. How did schools come to have Governing Bodies and what was their role? Tory Education Acts in the 1980s gave parents a much greater say in the running of schools, but did they make the role of the governors any clearer?

The Chief Education Officer: the real master of local educational provision?
March 1987. 2080 words. It used to be claimed that the real master of local educational provision was the Chief Education Officer. Was this ever true? And how did the many changes in educational administration during the 1970s and 80s affect the situation?

MA Dissertation

Rewriting Oxfordshire's Agreed Syllabus for Religious Education post 1988
June 1992. 25000 words. An account of the process of rewriting Oxfordshire's Agreed Syllabus (I was a member of the Working Party) and an analysis of the result.

Book Reviews

listed in reverse chronological order

Who Cares About Education? ... going in the wrong direction
Eric Macfarlane (2016)
Eric Macfarlane provides a critique of the education policies of successive governments - particularly their obsession with the academic - and suggests ways in which we might start to repair the damage.

Grammar School Boy: a memoir of personal and social development 1941-1961
John Quicke (2016)
How do successful former grammar school pupils from relatively humble backgrounds look back on their education? This is the central theme of John Quicke's personal memoir, which covers the first twenty years of his life.

The Passing of a Country Grammar School
Peter Housden (2015)
Peter Housden tells the story of how Market Drayton Grammar School in Shropshire, which celebrated its 400th anniversary in November 1955, became The Grove Comprehensive School in 1965.

Living on the Edge: rethinking poverty, class and schooling
John Smyth and Terry Wrigley (2013)
As governments pursue ruthless austerity, Smyth and Wrigley look at the effects of class and poverty on children and consider what sort of schools and education policies might begin to repair the damage.

Education under Siege
Peter Mortimore (2013)
Our state education system is in a mess and the current government seems to be hell-bent on destroying it altogether. Peter Mortimore explains the history and puts forward his suggestions for a better system.

New Labour and Secondary Education, 1994-2010
Clyde Chitty (2013)
To what extent did Labour's educational philosophy change with the election of Tony Blair as leader in 1994? And did his 'New Labour' government implement policies which reflected that philosophy? Clyde Chitty explains.

Politics and the Primary Teacher
Peter Cunningham (2012)
The politicisation of education has increased dramatically in the past thirty years as governments have sought to micro-manage the curriculum, pedagogy and teacher training. Peter Cunningham presents the facts as a basis for stimulating thoughtful and constructive debate.

School Wars: The Battle for Britain's Education
Melissa Benn (2011)
Are current government policies increasing the divisiveness of England's state education system? Could they even result in its effective destruction? Melissa Benn assesses the evidence and offers her suggestions for a more positive future for our schools.

Children, their World, their Education
edited by Robin Alexander (2010)
The final report and recommendations of the Cambridge Primary Review - the first in-depth investigation of primary education since Plowden - is long, comprehensive and thoughtful. It should be compulsory reading for all involved in education - and for politicians.

Education Policy in Britain (Second edition)
Clyde Chitty (2009)
An updated and expanded edition of Chitty's 2004 book (see below). Several of the chapters have been revised and updated; a new chapter on the privatisation of education has been added; higher education is now treated in a separate chapter; and the concluding chapter has been completely rewritten.

School behaviour management (two books)
Developing Schoolwide Programs to Prevent and Manage Problem Behaviors
Lane, Kalberg and Menzies (2009)
Conducting School-Based Functional Behavioral Assessments
Steege and Watson (2009)
Two American publications which promote particular approaches to the problem of identifying and dealing with problem behaviour - 'positive behaviour support' and 'functional behavioural assessment'.

Supporting the emotional work of school leaders
Belinda Harris (2007)
Political interference has not only damaged education in England, it has been traumatic for teachers and pupils. Harris rejects the task and performance models of school improvement which politicians have imposed and seeks 'to place people, relationships and learning back in the driving seat of change'.

Faith Schools: consensus or conflict?
Roy Gardner, Jo Cairns and Denis Lawton (eds) (2005)
There is widespread concern about Blair's faith schools policy and about the fact that there appears to have been no consideration of its implications. This book aims to present 'a balanced debate and evaluation of the issues involved in the continuing and expanded provision of faith based education in our present society'.

The Professionals: better teachers, better schools
Phil Revell (2005)
The training of teachers - through a multiplicity of different routes - is now an extraordinary mess. What should be done to sort it out and establish a coherent scheme for training tomorrow's teachers? That is the question which Revell seeks to answer in this very readable book.

Education Policy in Britain
Clyde Chitty (2004)
Chitty's book is a fitting continuation of the work of Brian Simon, who sought to illustrate the inseparability of history and practice. It seeks to provide information for those who want to understand how we got to where we are now, and to stimulate an informed debate about where we go from here.

Who Controls Teachers' Work?
Richard M Ingersoll (2003)
Ingersoll sets out to answer three sets of questions: Are schools centralised or decentralised? Do schools have the means to control the work of teachers and hold teachers accountable? Does school centralisation or decentralisation matter?

Faith-based Schools and the State
Harry Judge (2002)
This book concerns the development of the relationship between the church - mainly but not exclusively the Roman Catholic Church - and the state's provision of education in three countries - England, France and the US - over the past two hundred years. It aims to be 'comparative, and not simply expository'.

The Best Policy? Honesty in education 1997-2001
Paul Francis (2001)
Written over two years and completed in the run up to the 2001 General Election, Paul Francis's book is an analysis of the way the Labour government's policy on education during its first term was undermined by dishonesty.

Love and Chalkdust
Paul Francis (2000)
Like JL Carr's The Harpole Report (1972), this novel follows a year in the life of a school, documenting the inter-personal tensions, the institutional crises and the bureaucratic nonsense with which schools and teachers are bombarded, now on a daily basis. Like Harpole, too, it does so with great humour and humanity.

State Schools - New Labour and the Conservative Legacy
Clyde Chitty and John Dunford (eds) (1999)
Chitty and Dunford have assembled a series of essays which examine the situation in the country's schools mainly from the perspective of the head teacher but also from a variety of viewpoints. This is a thoroughly readable account of the depressing effects of government education policies on schools and teachers.

Experience and Education: towards an alternative National Curriculum
Gwyn Edwards and AV Kelly (eds) (1998)
Edwards and Kelly remind us that there really was a time before the 1988 Act when teachers actually discussed the aims and purposes of education. But this isn't just nostalgic yearning for the past. They plead for a genuinely open debate to identify the essential components of a national curriculum for a democratic society.

Bullying: Home, School and Community
Delwyn Tattum and Graham Herbert (eds) (1997)
The book is in three parts, dealing with Home, Home and School, and Home, School and Community. The fourteen chapters, by twenty-four contributors, include interesting accounts of a wide range of projects run by schools and other organisations. There is much valuable information here presented in a very readable style.

Bullying in Schools And what to do about it
Ken Rigby (1996)
Rigby's huge research base gives this book an authority that inspires confidence. He attempts to understand what bullying is, why some children bully others, and why some children are bullied, and he gives very practical advice.

A Community Approach to Bullying
Peter Randall (1996)
Randall takes a broad look at bullying and suggests ways in which communities can tackle it. He gives detailed description of the sort of project which could be set up in and by local communities, based on projects with which Randall himself has been involved.

Teacher Education and Human Rights
Audrey Osler and Hugh Starkey (1996)
I cannot imagine a book less likely to be read by most of those engaged in education. Which is a shame, because, while the new government actively pursues the same dreary path worn by its predecessor (standards, basic skills, incompetent teachers etc), it is a timely reminder that education is about more than this.

Troubled and Vulnerable Children: a practical guide for heads
Shelagh Webb (1994)
Forming part of Croners' The Head's Legal Guide, this book covers family difficulties and bereavement; homeless families, travellers and refugees; child protection and children in care; children as carers and poor attenders; children in need and children with special educational needs; working in partnership with parents; and children's rights in education.

Supporting Schools against Bullying
Scottish Council for Research in Education (1994)
This is the second anti-bullying pack from SCRE. The first concentrated on raising awareness among teaching staff; this one focuses on families, parents' groups and non-teaching staff.

Bullying: a practical guide to coping for schools
Michelle Elliott (1992)
The founder of Kidscape has assembled a series of useful chapters from a range of contributors and gives advice on the formulation and implementation of an anti-bullying policy.

Financial Delegation and Management of Schools: preparing for practice
Hywel Thomas with Gordon Kirkpatrick and Elizabeth Nicholson (1989)
This training manual for heads and governors covers a wide range of topics such as the appointment and dismissal of staff, the letting of school buildings, the use of supply cover and presenting performance information to parents.

Reforming Religious Education: the religious clauses of the 1988 Education Reform Act
Edwin Cox and Josephine M Cairns (1989)
Cairns considers the legal, social and cultural background to the 1988 Act; Cox examines the provisions of the Act and points out some of the ambiguities and problems which they contain and raise.

Re-thinking Active Learning 8-16
Norman Beswick (1987)
Beswick considers the educational use of computers, which were just beginning to appear in schools. He makes the case for project work and argues that the new technology would not render books obsolete.

Two Cultures of Schooling: the case of middle schools
Andy Hargreaves (1986)
Hargreaves takes a critical (sometimes depressing) look at middle schools. He relates their origins and history, analyses their differing approaches to organisation and teaching styles, and discusses the training and backgrounds of their teachers.

School Policies

These policies, written by the staff of Marston Middle School Oxford, present a snapshot of the thinking of one school's staff in the 1990s. (Marston Middle School was closed in July 2003 as part of the reorganisation of schools in Oxford).

Behaviour in School March 1996

Equal Opportunities July 1990

Gifted Pupils January 1994

Special Needs June 1993

Staff Development September 1990