Chapter 1 of the Hadow Report describes the fragmented nature of the English education system in 1931, and is very clear in its conclusion that we need to treat Primary education as a distinct phase that requires specific approaches and pedagogies.
The first chapter ends with these paragraphs:
One effect of the schemes of reorganisation has been to bring into clear relief the necessity for reconsidering the general aims and curriculum of schools for young children.
Today primary education is generally recognised as ending at about the age of eleven . . . and the importance of considering the education of children in primary schools as something which must have a character of its own, arises from these facts.
So what did the Hadow committee have to say about the special character and the specific methods needed in Primary education?
The primary school is not a mere interlude between the infant school and the later stages of education, nor is its quality to be judged by its success in preparing children to proceed to the latter.
Just as each phase of life has its special characteristics, so the primary school has its special opportunities, problems, and difficulties; and these it must encounter by developing its own methods, perfecting its own technique and establishing more firmly its own standards of achievement and excellence.
Its criterion must above all be the requirements of its pupils during the years when they are in its charge, not the exigencies of examinations or the demands of the schools and occupations which they will eventually enter. It will best serve their future by a single-minded devotion to their needs in the present, and the question which most concerns it is not what children should be – a point on which unanimity has hardly yet, perhaps, been reached – but what, in actual fact, children are.
Its primary aim must be to aid children, while they are children, to be healthy and, so far as is possible, happy children, vigorous in body and lively in mind, in order that later, as with widening experience they grow toward maturity, the knowledge which life demands may more easily be mastered and the necessary accomplishments more readily acquired.
If the central consideration, by which the curricula and methods of the primary school must be determined, is the sum of the needs and possibilities of the pupils attending it, it is obviously from those who have specialised knowledge of physical and mental conditions that, in the first place at least, guidance must be sought.
It is the physical and mental characteristics of the four years between seven and eleven which require to be considered.
The conclusions of leading authorities on the subject are set out in Chapters II and III 。。。They are necessarily tentative, for the years between seven and eleven have been less fully studied than have some of the earlier and later phases in the growth of children 。。。
The broad lessons which they suggest – the necessity of correcting the effects of earlier weaknesses, and of building up reserves of health to meet the stress of adolescence; the wide variations in intelligence which children show even by the age of five, and the consequent need for careful classification; the necessity of avoiding over-intellectualisation and of keeping within narrow limits of any kind of instruction which imposes a severe strain on the attention; the large place which should be given to games, singing, dancing, drawing, acting and craftsmanship; the importance of cultivating the imagination, of appealing to the emotions, and of fostering the social spirit – none of these is likely to be disputed.[!!!]
Any education worthy of the name must start from the facts, and the essential facts are, after all, simple. At the age when they attend the primary schools, children are active and inquisitive, delighting in movement, in small tasks that they can perform with deftness and skill, and in the sense of visible and tangible accomplishment which such tasks offer; intensely interested in the character and purpose – the shape, form, colour and use – of the material objects around them; at once absorbed in creating their own miniature world of imagination and emotion, and keen observers who take pleasure in reproducing their observations by speech and dramatic action; and still engaged in mastering a difficult and unfamiliar language, without knowing that they are doing so, because it is a means of communicating with other human beings.
These activities are not aimless, but form the process by which children grow. They are, in a very real sense, their education; and the course of wisdom for the educationalist is to build upon them . . .
To be continued . . .