In this chapter, Philip Gammage takes a wider look at what primary school is all about. He sets his analysis in the context of the values of the 1990s, where consumer concepts and language are applied to schools and hospitals, as well as businesses in the market-place. He urges us to remember that schools are simply one source of influence on children, among other equally or more powerful ones such as the family, peer groups and television. His analysis provides the context for his argument that primary schools should provide a learning environment which has genuine meaning and value for children.*
Any chapter concerned with issues which preoccupy those one might term ‘middle managers’ should of necessity throw certain fundamental, recurring problems into relief. The prime one of these is that of achieving a balanced recognition by parents, teachers, governors and children that they are mutually interdependent in the exercise, that they must all know what school is really about, what it can be expected to achieve and what not. We must be careful about the wholesale adoption of the language of industry and commerce, since much is highly damaging to education and may subtly distort and misrepresent the processes, perhaps especially so at the levels of early childhood and primary education. For in the 1990s the language of education has been thoroughly taken over by the jargon of the market-place. Courses are ‘delivered’; the quality of teaching is ‘controlled’; there are enterprise ‘initiatives’ which make learning and creativity seem subservient to efficiency or ‘standards’. Children are defined as ‘products’. Schools and classes have ‘outcomes’; teaching skills and subtleties are defined as ‘competencies’ to be defined on the job and rarely to be reflected
upon in any professional manner! In particular, pedagogical theory is derided and effective teacher training thought to consist solely of practice, with as little reflection or theory as possible.