About six years ago a story went the rounds in Plymouth, Devon, where I then worked as deputy head of a community high school for pupils aged 11 to 18 (grades 7 through 13). The story concerned the governing body of a small primary school (grades 1 through 6), of which there were many in Plymouth. In the United Kingdom (UK), each school has its own governing body, generally responsible for its financial and academic management. The governors of the school had apparently met to consider the newly announced national curriculum—the major part of the legislative program introduced in the 1988 Education Reform Act (ERA) by the Conservative government under Margaret Thatcher. The governors of the small primary school in Plymouth looked at this new scheme of things and after careful deliberation decided not to join.
How the rest of us laughed at their ignorance. How typical, we scoffed, of the sleepy, parochial, backwoods mentality of southwest England was their silliness in not realizing that the national curriculum was compulsory. Now, of course, we realize too late that these apocryphal governors were the wise ones and we the stupid. None of us should have “joined,” for we have spent the last six years wasting our time in trying to implement the national curriculum, and in the attempt have almost lost much of what we hold dear.