Mike explores the strict, no-nonsense Victorian schoolroom and hears from former pupils about their experience of primary schools from the 1930s to the 1960s, including Baroness Shirley Williams, who recalls the poverty of her fellow pupils in her London elementary shool in the 1930s.
Education journalist Mike Baker traces the controversial changes to the ways we have educated our youngest children over the past 150 years, from the rigidity of the Victorian age to the occasionally anarchic, experiential learning of the progressive 1970s.
Mike explores the birth of progressive and informal teaching methods in the 1960s.
The landmark Plowden Report banished the Victorian concept of children as 'vessels to be filled', bringing in instead the idea of the 'developmental age' - the notion that children are individuals who develop at different and uneven rates.
Calling on archive recordings and the personal reminiscences of pupils, parents and teachers, plus an interview with the only surviving member of the Plowden Committee, Mike hears how progressive teaching was loved by some and reviled by others.
He also traces the fierce political backlash in the 1980s, as public concerns grew over school standards and fears that anarchy was taking over in primary school classrooms.
Key contemporary policy-makers, including Baroness Shirley Williams, Lord Ken Baker and David Blunkett, help to explain why arguments over curriculum, teaching methods and testing are deeply rooted in our ideas about the nature, development and role of the youngest members of society.
Mike Baker explores the progressive, informal teaching methods of the 1960s.