New Perspectives in Primary Education: meaning and purpose in learning and teaching, by Sue Cox, a senior lecturer in the University of East Anglia, is a remarkable book published in December 2011. The innocuous sounding title disguises the dynamite within.

ARCHIVED on 15 November 2015

In gentler prose than this website she rejects SATs, Ofsted, league tables and the transmission of knowledge requirements of the National Curriculum.

She describes these as the instruments of a ‘performative goal-oriented’ approach to schooling, demanded by recent governments, which is alien to what many teachers, philosophers and researchers of the last forty years have realised children in primary schools need.

Gentle prose – but explosive ideas.

Sue Cox argues persuasively for schools to be reflective communities where teachers and children work collaboratively. This is how she expresses it:

The child exercises agency in constructing meanings and coming to know, and this is situated in collaborative activities with their teachers where the adults can provide the necessary cultural tools to support that.

It requires the teacher to foster the children’s enquiring frame of mind and to develop the same in themselves.

Decisions on how to act … will be made on the basis of a broad knowledge of the possibilities – of how to construct and make possible as yet unpredicted purposes and how to use the range of cultural tools and resources in realising them.

Decisions about what to do as a teacher – how to interact, how to construct a curriculum; and how to assess learning – will be made in the context of a classroom and school community where adults and children participate in different ways, but in a climate of equal respect for their contributions.

All, however, will be engaged in the activities because they have meaning and purpose in their lives, as people, whether children or educators.

When people ask ‘When you’ve swept away the existing demands on schools, what will happen?’ this book provides important answers. It is the kind of thinking that I would expect of the collegial schools argued for elsewhere on this website.

If – and when – government says ‘YES’ it will be a steep learning curve for teachers who have known no other classroom regime. But the gain for our children in starting them on the road for worthwhile lives, will be tremendous.

This page was added on 13 March 2012 and archived on 10 November 2015