Volume 1 The Report
Preliminary pages (i-xxii)
Part 1 Introduction
Part 2 The growth of the child
Part 3 The home, school and neighbourhood
Part 4 The structure of primary education
Part 5 The children in the schools: curriculum and internal organisation
Part 6 The adults in the schools
Part 7 Independent schools
Part 8 Primary school buildings and equipment; status; and research
Volume 2 Research and Surveys
The 1964 National Survey:
Appendix 3 (90-178)
Appendix 8 (290-346)
written in 1987 on Plowden's twentieth anniversary.
AH Halsey and Kathy Sylva
The Plowden Report (1967)
Children and their Primary Schools
A Report of the Central Advisory Council for Education (England)
London: Her Majesty's Stationery Office 1967
When Should Primary Education Begin?
344. The last chapter was concerned with the upbringing of children before they reach school age. The arguments led to the conclusion that they should have the opportunity of belonging to a nursery group. This will be the more possible because we are suggesting changes in the ages at which they are admitted to primary schools. We now examine the case for these alterations in its own right.
345. The choice of five as the age at which children must begin school was made almost by chance in 1870, but the Consultative Committee reported in 1933 that it was working well in practice, and thought there was no good reason for modifying the law. But, with the exception of Israel and a few states whose educational systems derive from ours, the United Kingdom is alone in the world in fixing so early an age. In most countries it is six; in some seven. This sharp contrast makes it right for us to consider carefully the grounds for admitting children to school when they are so much younger.
346. Children are born every day of the year. In England they are admitted to infant schools at intervals of four months (most countries have one yearly intake), and promoted to junior schools or classes only at intervals of twelve months. They must go to school at the beginning of the term after their fifth birthday; they are promoted to the junior school (or junior classes) in the September following their seventh birthday.
Table 11 shows that:
(a) there is a considerable difference in age and in the length of time children have been at school when they are promoted to the junior school. Either annual admissions, or termly promotions, would remove one or other of these differences; it is the combination of the two which imposes a double difference.
Disadvantages of Termly Entry
347. There is evidence both from our witnesses and research (1, 2, 3, 4) that children born in the summer, who are younger and have a shorter time at school than others before they are promoted, tend to be placed in the 'C' stream of those junior schools which are organised in this way. The NFER study of streaming (Appendix 11, Section 1(2), paragraph 4) found that 'the A streams had the highest average age and the lowest ability streams the youngest'. The difference persists. One county borough has found that a high proportion of the pupils born between September and December gained grammar school places compared with those born between May and August. The latter often have to transfer to junior school before they have finished learning to read. Their new teachers, not always realising their relatively late start, may believe them to be slow learners, expect less of them and often in consequence get less from them. The 'age allowances' made in selection procedures cannot offset their psychological handicap.
348. In many schools there is either a spare classroom in the first term of the year or the rooms are over filled in the summer. Few authorities staff the infant schools on summer numbers and fewer still will do so as staffing problems increase. For this reason it is common to find that children are promoted each term. This practice has been encouraged by authorities who have often provided two form entry schools with one especially well equipped room for the admission class. Its teacher's task is unrewarding. She helps children to adjust to school and gets to know their parents; but before she can use this knowledge, the children are transferred to another teacher. She feels the lack of a group of 'old hands' among the children to show newcomers how things are done.
349. The shuffle up of children from admission classes often affects the whole school. Children and teachers may have to get used to a new class each term. The effect on young children may be serious. The teacher is to them something like a parent. Nobody would like to change parents once a term; children in infant schools should not have to change teachers at this rate. A minority of schools avoid this problem by the form of organisation known as vertical grouping (see Chapter 20). But this would not be acceptable in all schools.
350. It seems, therefore, that termly entry results in unsatisfactory organisation in the infant school and has serious disadvantages for the summer born children. This view was endorsed by many of our witnesses and by the sample of teachers whom we invited to comment on the age of entry (Appendix 1, Table B.I.) We recommend, therefore, that all children should begin compulsory schooling in the same period of the year and that this should be in the autumn term. Even though the children born in the summer would be younger than the rest, they would have the same number of terms as other children in the infant school.
351. So far we have assumed that all children first go to school when they are legally required to. This is far from true. It is common practice for children to be admitted in the term before that in which their fifth birthday falls. In some areas, where there is a long tradition of women's work, children are admitted to school at the beginning of the year in which they turn five. Interviews with parents of children who started school in the summer term
of 1964 (a small sample forming part of the National Survey) showed that two thirds of their children had entered school under five years (see Appendix 6, Table 2). The National Child Development Study (Appendix 10, Table 15) gave a lower figure - 49.1 per cent. Statistics provided by the Department show that the majority of children who are 'rising five' in January enter school that term. Undoubtedly more autumn born than summer born children enter school before five. If summer born children are admitted before their fifth birthday they often enter classes which are overcrowded and schools which are less well staffed than earlier in the year. We are told that a third of all local authorities are now having to exclude 'rising fives' through the year. In a few areas there has recently not been room for even all of the statutory age. The age at which a child may go to school is affected by the conditions of the area in which he lives. Subject to these limitations, however, the age at which he does go to school depends on his parents' choice between one term and the next or even, perhaps, between three possible terms. In this way some children get nine terms and some only six in the infant school.
Chronological Versus Developmental Age
352. Chronological age, which can be a misleading guide to a young child's development, decides when he can and when he must go to school. Some of the teachers who gave evidence would have liked to substitute 'developmental age but for the reasons given in Chapter 2 it would not be easy to assess this accurately even with tests of the same complexity, expense and unpopularity as those which have been used in transfer to secondary education. It would seem wise, therefore, to continue to relate entry to school to chronological age. The law should, however, allow a good deal of variation in practice.
Easing Entry to School
353. Many parents probably have a fair idea of when their children are ready for school. The possibilities open to them should be widened and they should be given advice when it is needed. Today most children move in one step between the age of 4 years 9 months and 5 years 3 months from full-time home to full-time school. In the last chapter we recommended that children might move gradually, according to their individual needs, from occasional attendance to half-time attendance between the ages of three and five. We think also that part-time attendance should remain possible after a child reaches the chronological age, which is fixed by statute, for him to start school. Decisions ought to rest with the parents in consultation with head teachers. Children who now enter school under five - and many who are older - would be as well, and often better, served by part-time attendance at small nursery groups because the ratio of adults to children can be more generous and education informal. The nursery type of education would have to be available in the infant schools for those children who still needed it. Equally there would have to be sufficient stimulus in the nursery groups for the older and more advanced children.
354. We have received a considerable amount of evidence that part-time education would enable a child to settle more easily at school. The Nursery Schools Organiser in one county wrote 'I am convinced that if more flexible
part or full-time entry was permitted during a child's first year at school, that he or she would be ready to accept compulsory full-time at six'. A county inspector said 'The present arrangement of full-time education at five is too abrupt a transition from home for many children'. A headmaster wrote 'Many children who begin their school life at five find the full school day too long and show signs of fatigue. Some show marked signs of strain'. Other witnesses felt that most children settled easily into a full day. Twenty three per cent of mothers interviewed for the National Survey (Appendix 3, Table 44) would have liked their children to have started part-time. This proportion rose to 36 per cent in the supplementary sample (Appendix 6, paragraph 6) of children just settling into school. Yet all the new starters began full-time.
355. The NCDS Report indicates (Appendix 10, Table 80) that seven per cent of the boys and five per cent of the girls were reported still to be unsettled after the first three months in school. Our proposals for nursery education should ease the introduction to school. Admissions to the infant school should be staggered over half a term by arrangement between parents and head teachers. In this way each new child and his mother could be sure of an individual welcome. In the last resort there will, however, be some children who are not ready for full-time* education when the law expects them to be. If they are in a nursery group we suggest that they should stay there a little longer. If they have not been to one, we think that they should begin with attendance for half a day at the infant school. Care would have to be taken to see that while they were part-time, they got a balanced education without undue emphasis on learning to read, write and count. They need the play and creative expression which infant schools generally provide. This transition period within the statutory age for full-time education ought normally to last not longer than a term but this should be extended, if parents wish, until the child reaches the age of six. The child must come first.
356. We have been told that it is mostly professional parents who would like their children to start part-time and that to delay the full-time entry to school of children of parents in unskilled occupations would penalise their development. Yet the transition from home to school is a great change for all children and may be even greater for the child from a poor home. Care should therefore be taken to explain to parents why it is better for children to adjust gradually to school. We hope that, even in those areas where there has been a long tradition of entry to school before the statutory age, the part-time entry to a nursery type of education we have suggested as a short term measure (paragraphs 399 to 405) will be adopted.
Age of Entry
357. The argument so far leads clearly to two decisions. It is better to have one intake a year to infant schools or classes than three. It is desirable to be able to delay full-time education for those few who are not ready for it at the appointed time, and to lead up to it by part-time attendance. But what should be the age for entry? As we have seen, the other countries of the world, with few exceptions, favour a later age than ours. Some of our witnesses agreed with them. A few favoured the age of seven. The rest were divided between five and six. Clearly no decision will be absolutely right for everybody. To
*We use the terms 'full-time' and 'part-time' education to mean two sessions and one session a day respectively.
raise the age to six and define it as 'the September following the sixth birthday' would mean that the median age on admission would be six years six months and a good many children would be nearly seven. This would certainly reduce the number of children who would need continued part-time education, but for the same reason it would be frustrating for the many who would be ready for school well before. It seems to us, too, that there is a sound educational argument for admitting five year olds to school. It was with this age group that informal ways of learning, and teaching geared to individual needs, were first extensively developed in this country. There is a marked contrast between education given to six and seven year olds in England and in most countries with a later age of entry. In this country, learning through play and creative work continues throughout most infant schools; elsewhere this approach seemed to us on our visits often to be lacking. We think that it is probably sacrificed to the formal work which a later date of entry may easily seem to demand. We should not want this to happen in England.
358. We therefore recommend that the statutory time by which children must go to school should be defined as the September term following their fifth birthday. This measure would require legislation. Attendance at a nursery group should be permitted for the first term of compulsory education. A child should, if his parents wish, be allowed to attend school for a half day only until he reaches the age of six. Some children would be nearly six before they went to school; some no older than at present. The median age would be five years six months. This modest raising of the age of entry for some children by a few months would, we think, have several beneficial effects:
(a) It would simplify the organisation of the infants schools which could then be staffed and equipped for a full three year course.359. As we have said this change should not be made unless nursery education is available for all who wish it for at least one year before school starts. The older children within an age group should, when possible, be admitted earlier. Over two thirds of parents want their children to start school before the age of five. Their wishes are entitled to respect. To raise for some children the age of entry to school and not to provide some alternative education for the year before the new age of entry would be inexpedient as well as educationally unsound. We think that alternative education should, however, usually be part-time in a nursery group.
The Length of the Infant School Course
360. If our recommendation of one entry date a year stood alone all children - instead of roughly a third - would be limited to a two year course in the infant school. Yet we have received convincing evidence that the present course is too short and that children transfer to the junior school before they are ready for it.
361. Many infant schools are outstanding for the quality of the relationships between teachers and children. They excel in the opportunities they provide for play and the talk that accompanies it, the stress they put on individual learning and the skill with which teachers select from the various methods of teaching reading those that suit themselves and the individual children. Infant school teachers also have good opportunities for building up a knowledge of both children and parents. The children are usually open and trusting and parents have been shown by the National Survey to be more interested in their children's work at this stage than at any subsequent period (Appendix 3, Section 2, paragraph 34).
362. Two years is too short to profit fully from these qualities of the good infant school. In this period many children cannot establish social confidence and their slowly maturing personal relationships may suffer a severe setback, when they transfer to a new and unfamiliar junior school. This setback is especially characteristic of children in socially deprived areas who often enter infant schools lacking both social experience and the ability to express themselves in speech. Similarly, there is overwhelming evidence that many children have not achieved a mastery of reading by the time they leave the infant school. A reading survey conducted by the NFER in Kent showed that, though standards were rather higher than in the country as a whole, 45 per cent of the children in the first year junior classes still needed the kind of teaching which is to be found in infant schools. Yet most of their teachers had received no training in infant methods and a substantial minority had no knowledge of how to teach the beginnings of reading. The survey also demonstrated that the prospects of success in reading for children who are poor readers when they transfer to the junior school are very gloomy indeed. The NCDS survey tells the same story (Appendix 10, Section 6(a)). Many seven year old children continue to need systematic teaching in reading. At this age girls are superior to boys as judged by objective tests and by the primers they have reached. Early transfer to the junior school may be one reason why more boys than girls are to be found in remedial classes.
363. We conclude, therefore, that children should have three years in the infant schools and that they should not transfer until the age of eight. A three year course will allow teachers and children to work steadily without anxiety. It will give infant school teachers the satisfaction of seeing more results to their labours and of knowing that children have reached, before leaving them, a stage at which they can tolerate a change of school.
364. We believe, therefore, that all children (instead of only some as at present) should have at least three years in the infant school. But would a four year course be preferable? Two main arguments have persuaded us to the contrary. If the infant school course were to last four years, some children would be nearly ten before transfer. It would then be difficult both to cater adequately for the most advanced children and at the same time to preserve
the best of infant education. Secondly, as we argue later, 12 seems to us a better age of transfer to a secondary school than 13, and we believe that four years is the right length for junior education. Thus, there is a cumulative case for a three year infant school, deriving from what is best educationally for children between five and eight or nine, and from what are the desirable lengths of the junior and secondary courses. We recommend that transfer to junior schools should take place in the September following a child's eighth birthday.
Should the Age of Transfer to Secondary Education be Raised?
365. '11+' seems now as firmly fixed in Englishmen's minds as 1066. One of the matters referred to us, the age of transfer to secondary education, forces us to ask whether it should soon become as much a matter of past history. It is no longer to be the dreaded landmark marking off the grammar school child from the modern school child. Should it also cease to mark the transition from small primary to large secondary school?
366. The choice of the age of 11 was the result, it seems, partly of the desire to give 'scholarship winners' from the old elementary schools the benefit of the established five year course in the county secondary schools and old grammar schools and partly of the desire to provide secondary education for all in a system where most boys and girls left school as soon as they became 14. A later age than 11 would have meant for most pupils a secondary school course of 'one and a bit years' instead of 'two and a bit'. The second alternative just made sense: the first was plain nonsense. The choice between them was easy. Practical considerations decided the matter; theory, in so far as it came in at all, was used in support.
367. The present dividing line is governed by Section 8(1) of the Education Act of 1944 as amended by Section 3 of the 1948 Act. In 1944 Parliament laid down that there were to be 'sufficient primary schools for junior pupils under ten and a half years of age and for those over that age whom it was expedient to educate with such pupils'. There were also to be sufficient secondary schools for senior pupils over 12 and for those junior pupils over ten and a half whom it was expedient to educate with them. Pupils, therefore, were to move from primary to secondary schools between the age of ten and a half and 12, that is, at about the age of 11.
368. The 1964 Act enabled proposals to be made to the Secretary of State for the establishment of schools which straddled the dividing line laid down by the 1944 Act between primary and secondary education. The intention was to allow experimental patterns to be tried out, rather than to modify the general age structure. It was expected that the outcome would be the establishment of a small number of middle schools for children of 8 to 12 and 9 to 13. Since then. Circular 13/66, announcing the Government's plans for raising the school leaving age, allows local education authorities to change the age of transfer to 12 or 13 if justified 'by reference to some clear practical advantages in the context of reorganisation on comprehensive lines, or the raising of the school leaving age, or both'.
369. The bewildering variety of schemes which are being canvassed, and to a less extent applied, made it all the more necessary for us, in view of our terms of reference, to study from first principles what the best age of transfer to
secondary education should be. We took as starting points the information on children's development described in Chapter 2, the written and oral evidence received from associations, individual witnesses and members of HM Inspectorate, and the arguments put forward for the Leicestershire plan and by some local authorities for 9 to 13 schools. We held discussions with head and assistant teachers from different types of secondary school and with teachers from primary schools. Some of us have visited areas in which experiments are being made in teaching children aged 11 to 13 in separate, self contained schools. Our recommendations take into account the extension to 16 of the period of compulsory attendance at school.
370. The present age of transfer, as opposed to the mechanism of selection, has been little challenged until recently. This is a reason for caution. Moreover, there are good arguments against a change. From the point of view of the primary schools there is an objection to interfering with junior schools at a time when they are rapidly becoming leaders in educational advance. This, it may be said, is no time to disturb by organisational changes a revolution in ways of teaching and learning that is wholly to the pupils' good. From the secondary point of view there are two strong arguments for the present age. It gives the secondary school time to get to know its pupils well before decisions are made on choice of courses at about the age of 14. It allows eleven and twelve year olds the stimulus of teaching by, or at least of teaching supervised by, the specialists who are in charge of secondary school departments. This is especially valuable in subjects such as mathematics and science in which skilled teachers are scarce. There is also the point that transfer at 11 allows a small majority of pupils time to adjust to their new school before meeting the strains of puberty. But, as Chapter 2 shows, the variations in the age at which puberty occurs are so wide that it is impossible to fix a transfer age which would be generally satisfactory from this point of view.
371. Some of the arguments for a change of age arise from a belief that the junior school course now ends at too early an age. The experience of teachers and other educationalists suggests that for many children the changes of curriculum and method associated with a break at 11 cut across a phase in learning and in attitudes to it. An unselfconscious period in art, dramatic movement and writing, for example, may last till 12 or 13. Many children, too, at the top of the primary school develop confidence in devising experiments and using books in specific situations (often unrelated to 'subjects'). Their progress may be slowed down by premature emphasis on class instruction, adult systematisation and precision in secondary schools. These arguments are supported by the findings of Piaget and his English followers on the late emergence of powers of abstract thought. Equally, the junior school curriculum is wider than it was. A foreign language, science (as opposed to nature study) and mathematics (as opposed to arithmetic) used to be confined to secondary schools. They are now taught in junior schools. Today there is a basis for a 'middle school' curriculum.
372. Other arguments from the secondary school side turn on the disadvantages to the 11 and 12 year olds and to the schools as a whole which now arise from transfer at 11. Eleven, it is argued, is too early for the educational decisions which follow from a change of school. Our evidence from witnesses goes to show that transfer between streams in comprehensive schools is
uncommon just as transfers between modern and grammar schools are. The strictly educational, as opposed to social, argument against a selective system starting at 11 does not lose its force because the selection is between streams instead of between schools. This rigidity inside comprehensive schools may be unnecessary and may be temporary; but it has to be taken into account.
373. The second line of argument turns on the fact that so many more boys and girls than formerly stay at school to 16 and 18. The demands made by the growing numbers of these senior pupils in secondary schools are such that highly qualified teachers have little time and energy to devote to younger pupils. Specialist organisation is necessary for the older pupils. It is often extended to the younger pupils for whom it is not. It is difficult to cater in one institution for the needs of 11 year olds and pupils of 15 to 18: either the presence of children will prevent the development of the near adult atmosphere that older pupils need; or, if priority is given to creating an adult community, the younger pupils may feel lost, or even by contrast be treated as younger than they are.
374. There are also the middle years of the secondary school course to consider. To the newcomer the secondary school may be as delightful, once his initial shyness has passed off, as his junior school has been. For the seniors at the top there is often the necessity for hard work and, for some, the enjoyment of intellectual effort. There is established position, responsibility, seniority in fact, to enjoy. But in between there may be drab years of boredom when the fulfilment which school denies may be sought elsewhere and show itself in restlessness. Whatever the age span, the middle years are dangerous. It should not all be blamed on adolescence. Seven years to 18 for the able, five years to 16 for most pupils is a long time. These are longer periods than than those spent in any other part of the educational system. There is something to be said for shortening the total span of secondary education, and this can only be done by starting it rather later.
375. Another argument for a higher age of transfer turns on the increasing size of secondary schools. The voluntary lengthening of school life and the raising of the minimum school leaving age will make schools bigger unless countervailing action is taken. So will the increase in the number of comprehensive schools for 11 to 18 year olds. The Newsom report recorded the conviction of heads of schools in deprived areas that their pupils needed small schools. Quite apart from this special case it seems clear that 11 and 12 year olds may easily feel lost in too large a school. A later age of transfer than 11 would to some extent offset this trend and protect the younger children, who are the ones most likely to suffer from size. There is no reason why a junior or middle school need be large. A two tier secondary system starting at 11 is an alternative method of reducing the size of comprehensive schools. But, with a five year secondary course, one or other stage must be limited for many pupils to two years - 'all legs and no body' as one witness put it.
376. Some of those with whom we have had discussions see no difficulty in common provision for pupils from 11 to 18. Others find it necessary to take avoiding action where they can. Thus, library provision is often separately made for juniors. Where this is not done they are often inadequately catered for. Out of school activities are usually biased towards the interests of the older pupils and frequently they are insufficient for the younger. The evidence
of the Incorporated Association of Head Masters refers to the need for separate buildings for the youngest pupils in schools with large sixth forms. The headmaster of a large selective boys' school has told us that he had found it necessary to make special arrangements for the community life of the younger pupils. Some comprehensive schools are organised in lower, middle and upper schools, an arrangement which gives the younger pupils a community of their own but does not isolate them, and which breaks up large numbers and extensive buildings into units of manageable size.
377. Granted that 11 and 12 year olds fit less well than they did into secondary schools unless special provision is made, is there reason to believe that they would fit better or with less difficulty into a school with children of eight, nine and ten? The main difficulty in answering this question lies in the different development of boys and girls. Girls are ahead of boys from birth and reach adolescence some two years before them. One possibility would be to provide single sex schools at this stage of divergent development and interests. This arrangement would run counter to the general trend towards coeducation and few have suggested it. All boys and most girls would be at home in a middle school*, but there might be difficulties for a 13 year old girl who had reached adolescence early. If the transfer age is fixed at 13, earlier transfer would probably be needed for a minority of girls who were exceptionally mature.
378. The different rate of development towards sexual maturity among boys and girls is only one of the physiological and psychological factors which have to be considered. The differences between individuals are at least as important as the difference between the sexes. The important thing is to remember how extremely wide the range of variation is. This means that wherever the age of transfer is fixed, there will be some children who would have been better left in the primary school, and some for whom the reverse would be true. There is, therefore, need to treat the years immediately before and after transfer as a transitional period. What happens at present, and the arguments we have been considering, both make us believe that most of this period is best spent in a primary school. We conclude that the case for a higher age of transfer is made out. But should it be 12 or 13?
12 or 13?
379. The answer to this demands a fairly close look at the working of the present schools. Both ages would protect the pupils somewhat longer from the downward reaching examination pressures which the GCE, and perhaps even CSE, may create. Pupils transferred at 12 would have four years before taking a first external examination in their secondary school. Even transfer at 13 would allow pupils an introductory year and two years for an examination course. So far there is no decisive advantage either way. But we have only been considering pupils who propose to take a full secondary course and probably sit for an examination at the end. Many will not, and will leave as soon as they may. For these, if they were born between September and February, the earliest date of leaving after 1970 will be the Easter after their sixteenth birthday. If the age of transfer is 13, their secondary course would have lasted only two years and two terms which we and most of our witnesses think too short. Transfer at 12 would be better for them.
*For an explanation of the term 'middle school' see para 406.
380. For many subjects of the curriculum 12 and 13 would be equally satisfactory transfer ages. This holds good for all the English subjects, for home economics and probably for art. There is perhaps a slight, but certainly not a decisive, advantage in the lower age where foreign languages are concerned. Latin and a second modern language are usually introduced in the second year of the secondary course but there would be no harm in leaving them for a further year. Science, handicraft and physical education present rather more difficulties with the higher age. Some extra accommodation and equipment would be needed in middle schools for all three subjects if the age of transfer is raised at all; if it is raised to 13 more would be needed than if it is fixed at 12. Staffing for science and mathematics in middle schools would be more difficult to provide, because more specialist teaching would be needed, with the age of transfer at 13 than at 12. Accommodation in a two form entry junior school would probably be adequate for an eight to 12 school provided that one or two general practical rooms were added and that there was easily accessible space for books and a place to read them. On these curriculum matters the balance of advantage seems to us to lie with a transfer at the age of 12.
381. It is also necessary to consider whether transfer at 12 or 13 is more likely to produce the kind of middle school we wish to see. Eleven year old pupils often transfer from a school based entirely on class teaching to a secondary school which, because of the needs of the older pupils, is organised for specialist teaching. A school with semi-specialist accommodation shared between cognate subjects, and teachers skilled in certain areas of the curriculum rather than in single subjects, could provide a bridge from class teaching to specialisation, and from investigation of general problems to subject disciplines. The influence of semi-specialist teachers primarily concerned with the older pupils might be reflected in more demanding work being given to nine and ten year olds, while the primary tradition of individual and group work might advantageously be retained for a longer period than at present, and might delay streaming.
382. Effective staffing of middle schools would call for recruitment of teachers both from present junior schools and from those experienced with the younger age groups in secondary schools. At the same time some teachers mainly concerned with the younger juniors would need to transfer to first or infant schools. Many junior teachers would need to deepen and extend their knowledge; former secondary teachers would have to absorb the best of primary school attitudes and practice, and also to increase their personal resources since they would no longer have available to them the knowledge and advice of specialist heads of department. An imaginative programme of in-service training would be called for, but in-service training is just as necessary for satisfactory education within the present structure. Junior-secondary courses in the training colleges offer a basis on which suitable initial training courses could be developed. The principal need would be for courses which offer a group of related subjects for study in relative depth, for instance in the creative arts, in English and English subjects, or in a combination of mathematics, geography and science. Middle schools might well attract more men than junior schools have done, which would probably give them a more stable staff. They might also attract graduates, interested in the possibility of working experimentally.
383. If the middle school is to be a new and progressive force it must develop further the curriculum, methods and attitudes which exist at present in junior schools. It must move forward into what is now regarded as secondary school work but it must not move so far away that it loses the best of primary education as we know it now. The extended programme will require teachers with a good grasp of subject matter but we do not want the middle school to be dominated by secondary school influences. Clearly these aims could be achieved with transfer set either at 12 or 13.
384. The danger of the extension of the middle school course for one year only would be that the change might not provide sufficient challenge to the schools to think afresh about what they provide for the older pupils. The danger of a two year extension would be that the middle school might forget that it was still a primary school. There is a risk either way; on the whole we think that transfer at 12 is more likely to give us the middle school we want to see.*
385. The arguments in favour of 12 and 13 as the age of transfer are fairly evenly balanced and there is, we repeat, no one age which is right for every child. But on nearly every count it seems to us that the balance of advantage is just with 12 year old transfer, that is to say transfer in the September following a child's twelfth birthday which gives a median age of 12 years 6 months on admission to a secondary school.
386. Our recommendations for the structure of primary education, therefore, are:
(a) there should be part-time nursery experience for those whose parents wish it;387. We emphasise that the merits of this structure depend on the interlocking of its parts. The arguments in its favour must not be used to support one part without the other two. In particular we wish to stress that our proposal for one intake a year to the first school is inseparable from our recommendation of part-time nursery education for all whose parents wish it.
Provision for Exceptional Cases
388. Up to this point we have been concerned with the structure of nursery and primary education. One of the major difficulties has been the fact which we have had tiresomely to reiterate, that there is no universally right age for
*The Scottish Council for Research in Education sponsored a detailed enquiry into the age of transfer from primary to secondary school, the results of which were published in 1966 (6). The age of transfer in Scotland has been 12. They concluded, as we have done, that 'The answer to the question "What is the appropriate age of transfer" must be that there is no one "correct" age ... The transition from primary to secondary education should extend over the whole period from age ten to age 13. These years should be regarded as a transitional period, during which there is a gradual change in curriculum and style of teaching. Prescribing age limits within this period for a change of school is justifiable for administrative reasons, not on psychological grounds.' (p. 89)
any step, so various are human beings. They are so various that it is in our view right that special provisions should be made for exceptional individual circumstances. It is wrong to take refuge in the old saying that hard cases make bad law when it is clear that the strict application of regulations would defeat the educational purpose for which they are framed. It is therefore necessary to consider the kind of circumstances which merit individual consideration.
389. The wide variation in the maturation of children has been described in Chapter 2. A class of five year olds may not only have an age range of a year in chronological age but may also cover a span of two or three years in developmental age. As the child grows older this span widens. A girl becomes an adolescent; the boy in the next seat remains a child. Teachers have to adopt an individual approach to each child in order to help a class of children at widely different stages of development even when the chronological range is narrow. Even so, there are a minority of children who, in all aspects of development, are so ahead of their contemporaries that they ought to work with older children.
390. Some authorities and schools rightly allow flexibility of transfer between the infant and junior stages for the minority of children who fall outside the normal range of maturation. There is, however, under the present law no provision for postponing the beginning of compulsory education where this would be desirable and no provision even for attendance to be part-time at first for those children who would be the better for it. When the single date of entry is adopted there will be an even stronger case for flexibility. A mature child, who may be amongst the oldest in his nursery group, may well be ready before the others to go to school. He should be allowed the opportunity. Similarly, it may well be right for an immature child to remain an extra term in the nursery group.
391. We enquired how many children at present move from primary to secondary schools when they are either 10 or 12 instead of 11. The number is insignificant. Our National Survey showed only 44 under age and 10 over age transfers out of a total of some 20,000 children. Early transfers usually take place at the initiative of parent or teacher and depend on head teacher estimates, objective tests and in some instances on the opinion of the educational psychologist. Late transfers almost invariably follow a period of illness. The small amount of flexibility revealed by the National Sample cannot reflect accurately the wide variations in maturity which exist between individual children. We believe that there should be a greater number of early and late transfers at each stage of education based on consultations between teachers and parents. A margin of six months on either side of the official transfer age would probably cover the needs of all but a few children. Late transfers should be fewer than early. Only in exceptional circumstances is it right for a child to be kept back in a primary school after his friends leave. Occasionally it may be right to arrange a transfer in the course of a school year instead of waiting for the next autumn.
392. Our conclusions on the degree of discretion that should be allowed to parents and schools as to the ages of entry and of transfer are:
(a) at least one year of part-time nursery education should be made available before compulsory education for those children whose parents wish it;
(b) children should be allowed to enter the first school at any date in the first half term of the school year, subject to agreement between the parents and the head teacher;The Need for a National Policy
Why a Uniform Age of Transfer is Necessary
393. Government policy is directed towards creating a mobile labour force. Education must be awake to its implications, one of which is a single nationwide age of transfer. We agree that this will take time to achieve, but the interim period should be as short as can be contrived. The inconveniences it will cause should not be tolerated for long. Two illustrations may be given. A child in moving home might find himself moving backwards educationally from full-time education in an infant school in an unreorganised area to part-time education in the reorganised system of his new home. Another older child in similar circumstances might have to transfer out of secondary education to a middle school in the primary system.
394. How frequently do families move home and children change schools? Most removals, of course, are local and do not result in a change of school; but our National Survey (Appendix 3, Section 3, paragraph 7) showed that nearly a quarter of the children at the top of the junior schools had changed schools because their families had moved to a different district. Eighteen per cent of the seven year olds in the NCDS Survey (Appendix 10, Table 73) had attended more than one school. Ministry of Labour statistics showed an increase in gross regional migration for employed persons from 505,000 in 1952, to 610,000 in 1964 (7). Many of these half million workers must have children of school age.
Making the Changes
395. We therefore recommend that the Department should announce as soon as possible a national policy on the structure of nursery and primary
education and that it should fix a date by which new ages of entry and transfer should become binding. We naturally hope that these decisions may follow our recommendations summarised in paragraph 392.
396. We believe that they reflect the balance of educational advantage and that they are also the most practicable to carry out. We cannot be quite sure of this because, although we tried to make an estimate of the building costs of different ages of transfer, we were unable to extend it to secondary school building or to find out the extent to which individual existing buildings could be put to new uses. We do not therefore take this factor into account in deciding to recommend transfer at 12 instead of 13. It will be necessary for the Department and local education authorities to make a careful survey of all school buildings before they decide when changes in ages of transfer can be made nationally. We hope this will be put in hand at once.
397. Meanwhile, it is clear that authorities will have to make the best use they can of the buildings they have. In the rest of this chapter we are concerned with suggestions for this interim period for which the Department sanction local variants on the national plan. This interim period is bound to last until a great deal of building can be sanctioned for reorganisation. Some authorities may, and probably will, in the interval be forced to adopt a two tier system of secondary education with the lower tier devoted to children aged between 11 and 13. This should be recognised only as a purely temporary expedient. A two year school is not educationally sound, particularly at this stage of children's development. In the first year they will be settling down; in the second they will be getting ready to leave. There will be no time to become the school community which children of this age particularly value. Where such a school has to be introduced, the accent, especially in the first year, should be on the continuation and development of the ways of learning found in the best junior schools, carried out by teachers some with the deeper subject knowledge expected in secondary schools.
398. Small primary schools will probably be the hardest to fit into the new national pattern. Most of them are combined junior and infant schools; many of them are voluntary schools. In urban areas, some small schools might be amalgamated, and some sites would allow for additional building. But most of them are in the country and there are rural counties where two class schools are still usual. We consider the problems of rural schools in Chapter 14.
An Emergency Plan for Infant Schools
399. We have attached importance to the simultaneous introduction of nursery provision for all who want it and a single intake each year into the infant schools. Except in the educational priority areas we are afraid that these changes cannot come for ten or a dozen years until the late 1970s. Meanwhile, school conditions for young children grow worse. Even in 1963, 26 per cent of our special sample of infant starters (Appendix 6) entered classes over 40. In an increasing number of areas the rising fives are being excluded. The first batch to be excluded are the summer born children, because the summer term is when the infant school is most crowded.
400. A long day - there is no provision for part-time education - in a large class is no way to start school. Some measures must be designed to enable
children to start school part-time in small classes. We think that the worst effects of the present situation can be mitigated by the following arrangements:
(a) Children should begin full-time attendance at school twice a year, those reaching the age of five between February 1st and August 31st in the following September, at a median age of five years three months, and those reaching this age between September 1st and January 31st in the following April, at a median age of five years five months.401. The way the plan would work is illustrated in Table 12. It should be compared with Table 11 which shows the present age of compulsory education.
402. It will be seen that:
(a) no child whose parents take up the two term part-time option will get less than the equivalent of his present entitlement to full-time education, and some will get more;
403. The scheme would also have the following advantages which, we think, entitle it to be regarded not only as an emergency salvage measure but as a foretaste of our permanent plan:
(a) it would introduce children to school part-time;404. Care should be taken to introduce children to school by preparatory visits and contacts in the way discussed in Chapter 12. This applies both to those who are going to start part-time and to those who will begin full-time.
405. We have stressed earlier the advantages of a three year course in the infant school. This scheme moves towards it. Yet we hope that, in the period before the general structure of primary and secondary education is changed, authorities will extend the infant course to a full three years from five to eight whenever buildings make this arrangement possible. This length of infant course should certainly be possible in authorities which are establishing middle schools as part of their plan for introducing comprehensive education.
Conclusion: A Change of Name
406. A new structure for primary education seems to us to make a change of names desirable. The parents of eight year olds will not want them called infants; 12 year olds, whose older brothers have been in the secondary school at that age, will object to being juniors. There will inevitably be a sense of being 'kept down'. We suggest 'first school' for the five to eight age group and 'middle school' for the eight to 12. Where a school serves all children from five to 12 we suggest that it should be called a 'combined school'. A nursery forming part of a first school might be called a 'nursery group'.
407 (i) As soon as there is nursery provision for all children whose parents wish it, for a year before starting school, the normal time by which a child should go to school should be defined as the September term
following the fifth birthday. This would require legislation. Schools should be allowed to space admissions over the first half term of the year.Interim Recommendations
(vii) Until this date children should begin whole-day attendance at school twice a year, those reaching the age of five between February 1st and August 31st in the following September, and those reaching five between September 1st and January 31st in the following April. This would also require legislation which should permit staggered admissions over half a term.
1. Williams P 'Date of Birth, Backwardness and Educational Organisation'. Brit. Journ. Ed. Psychol. Nov. 1964