chapter  1
Pages 7

In 1986, when I observed and talked with the teachers who feature in the first of this book's classroom studies, a national curriculum for England and Wales seemed a possibility, though not yet a certainty. It is true that the debate about education was becoming more noisy and polarised, but then that was the by now all-too-familiar face of this decade of conviction politics, and compared with what had happened elsewhere on the political scene - the jingoism of the Falklands war, the violence and despair of the miners' strike, the alarm and dissent over the Reagan-Thatcher nuclear weapons alliance, the growing gulf between rich and poor - talk of tidying up the curriculum seemed very small beer. Thus it was still possible for primary teachers to presume, subject to broad public expectations about the importance of the basics, that the curriculum was theirs to shape, and that questions of educational value and purpose, though in a democratic society of concern to everybody, were principally for professionals to define and respond to.