The is the fourth post in our series of extracts from the conclusions of the Hadow Report of 1931. We’re considering the impact of Hadow on the history of Primary education.We’ll add some thoughts and comments of our own in due course.
“The outlook of the primary school has been broadened and humanised . . .
It appeals less to passive obedience and more to the sympathy, social spirit and imagination of the children, relies less on mass instruction and more on the encouragement of individual and group work, and treats the school, in short, not as the antithesis of life, but as its complement and commentary.
What is needed now is not to devise any new system or method, but to broaden the area within which these tendencies are at work. It is not primarily a question of so planning the curriculum as to convey a minimum standard of knowledge, indispensable though knowledge is, and necessary as is the disciplined application by which alone knowledge can be acquired. The essential point is that any curriculum, if it is not to be purely arbitrary and artificial, must make use of certain elements of experience, because they are part of the common life of mankind.
The aim of the school is to introduce its pupils to such experiences in an orderly and intelligent manner, so as to develop their innate powers and to awaken them to the basic interests of civilised existence. If the school succeeds in achieving that aim, knowledge will be acquired in the process, not, indeed, without effort, but by an effort whose value will be enhanced by the fact that its purpose and significance can be appreciated, at least in part, by the children themselves.
Thus conceived, the curriculum of a school acquires a higher degree of unity than is possible so long as it is regarded as a series of separate, if related, subjects.
It is unified by the common relevance of the growth of children of the different elements composing it. Growth is, from one point of view, and a point of view which is peculiarly vital for young children, a physiological process, and the foundation of a school’s activities must clearly be care for the physical well-being of its pupils. On the work of the school medical service, beyond expressing appreciation of the triumphs which it has won and emphasising the urgent need of its progressive extension, we do not propose to dwell.
But the health of children is not only the concern of a special service, crucial though the importance of that service is. The effort to promote it should inspire every side of the nation’s educational activities, from the planning and equipment of the schools and their surroundings to the time devoted to games, and indeed to the whole atmosphere in which a school’s work is carried on.
Professor Burt drew in his evidence a moving picture of the effect of a squalid environment not only on physical, but also, if the two can be distinguished, on mental energy. Its result, he writes, is a ‘lack of mental vitality … and a chronic condition of mental fatigue. … Much so-called laziness is really the outcome of a defence mechanism, arising out of genuine physical weakness.’ The school cannot eradicate these conditions, but it can do much, and should do more, to counteract their effects. Excellent advice as to health talks and practice for children under the age of eleven, is contained in the Board’s Handbook of Suggestions for Health Education (1928), and we take it for granted that all teachers and administrators are familiar with this.
But, at this stage of life, formal instruction, as our witnesses agreed, is less important than the influence of the environment supported by the school itself, and the provision of ample opportunities for healthful activity as part of its normal work. It is idle to give lessons in hygiene and good manners if the surroundings in which children pass 27 hours each week are unhygienic or mean.
It should hardly be necessary to insist not only that classrooms must be sunny and airy, but that every school should contain proper accommodation, lavatories with an abundant supply of hot water wherever possible, cloakrooms with facilities for drying wet clothes and boots, a provision of drinking water, and provision for school meals where necessary. The more closely the design of the primary school approaches that of the open air school the better.
The physical culture which is the concern of the school should aim at much more than merely ensuring that children obtain the sunlight, fresh air, and exercise, which are necessary to health. It should have as its object, as we point out in Chapter VII, not merely well-being, but the simultaneous development of physical and mental powers in harmonious interplay.
Bodily poise and balance, a habit of natural and expressive motion – these qualities are not merely physical accomplishments which add grace to life, but are intimately connected with intelligence and character. Such forms of excellence, gymnastiké in the classical sense of the term, have sometimes in the past been regarded as among the ornaments of existence with which the schools attended by the majority of the population were not directly concerned. If, however, they are to become, as they might and should, a national possession, the outward sign and symbol of a common culture and civilisation, it is precisely in the primary schools that they require to be cultivated. Dancing, singing, music, the drama, are the means of cultivating them.
Physical culture, as an agent, not merely of health, but ofeurhythmia, must be the foundation of the school’s activities, because a child is, in the first place, a growing organism.
But the child is not only an organism with biological needs; he is also a member of the human family. His environment is a civilisation created by man. Just as, if he is to survive, he must adapt himself to the requirements of the physical world, so, if he is to be at home in that civilisation, as one free of the house, he must acquire some familiarity with the elementary processes which civilisation employs and catch a glimpse of the foundations on which it reposes.
To be continued . . .