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close this bookThe Effectiveness of Teacher Resource Centre Strategy - Education research paper No. 34 (DFID, 1999, 257 p.)
close this folderCHAPTER TWO : The British Teachers' Centre - Its Rise and Fall: A Review of the Literature
View the document(introduction...)
View the document1.1 The Beginnings Of The Movement.
View the document1.2 A Centre For Curriculum Development.
View the document1.3 A Centre For Dissemination And Training.
View the document1.4 The Functioning And Use Of Centres.
View the document1.5 The Problems Of Assessing Teachers' Wants And Needs
View the document1.6 Widening And Diversifying Of Services.
View the document1.7 The Influence On Teachers' Centres Of Major Policy Changes
View the document1.8 Evaluation Of Effectiveness.
View the document1.9 Exploration Of The Issues Relating To Evaluation.
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View the documentConclusion

1.1 The Beginnings Of The Movement.

In the late 1950s and early 1960s, the first Teachers' Centres Britain were established. They began in response to particular developments at that time school curriculae and teacher training. The post-experience education of teachers, which had previously been the province of university education departments and colleges of education, began to expand and to diversify. Thornbury (1973) suggested one reason for this was that, after the war, traditional training institutions were more concerned to make education a 'respectable academic subject' than to address the real needs of classroom teachers. At the same time, the increasing initiatives curriculum innovation required the direct involvement of teachers (op.cit). The main impetus behind many of the first centres were the Nuffield Foundation's Science and Maths projects. Gough (1975: 11) identifies these projects as the 'catalyst for the tremendous growth centres the mid sixties'. He points out that 'one of the conditions for becoming a pilot area for the Junior Science and Mathematics projects' was that 'there should be a teachers' centre established' (ibid). Initially these single subject centres were used to disseminate project materials, and to coordinate teacher's comments and criticisms of these, based upon trials schools.

A number of other developments in education were happening at this time. There were major changes the education system and thus in the demands made on teachers and the school curriculum; changes which made curriculum reform essential. Thornbury (1973: 50) makes the point that 'the beginnings of the end of the 11 plus was leaving teachers with the feeling that much of the old stuff was obsolete and unintelligible'. He suggests that teachers wanted to teach something more 'relevant and palatable' but were unsure about what this ought to be. The introduction of CSE exams with their element of Teacher input was also noted by Thornbury (ibid) as an impetus to find somewhere for teachers to meet and develop ideas. Weindling et al (1983: 23) point out that teachers' centres were in a large part 'a response or reflection to' these far reaching changes affecting the education service at the time.

A growing interest in curriculum and professional development was identified by Morant (1978) as the driving force behind the founding of the Schools Council. In response to the raising of the school leaving age (ROSLA) in 1965, The Council in its second Working Paper, Working Paper 2, suggested the idea of founding centres where teachers could meet and look at the problems and implications and discuss strategies for ROSLA. They began to recommend the formation of centres to each local education authority. Gough (1975: 11) notes that between 1964 and 1974 teachers' centres increased 'from a handful to something over 600'. Curriculum development was the function the Schools Council clearly had in mind for these centres. In Working Paper 10 (1967), in which Weindling et al (1983: 27) say The Council threw its 'considerable weight behind the idea of local curriculum development and the need for centres where teachers could meet'. The Council explains its belief that part of its role was to make suggestions about how centres could best support local curriculum development groups. The hope is expressed that ' teachers will, more and more, meet groups to discuss curriculum problems and that local education authorities will do all that is practicable to encourage such groups'.

At this stage The Council began to move away from the practice of looking at isolated-subjects in specialist centres and moved towards the idea of addressing curriculum development generally in multi-purpose development centres (Gough 1975). They established a framework for such centres, the suggested professional aim being to enable studies by local teachers, possibly assisted by outside experts, of particular curricular areas and leading to the preparation of new course materials. Thornbury (1973) makes the point that their emphasis in such working groups was on the practical and realistic rather than the radical or ambitious. He also suggests that involvement in such groups gave teachers the feeling of being 'an expert in a small area' which he felt 'compensated for their lack of clear professional identity'.

The priorities and directions taken by these early centres reflected the orthodoxy in education at the time. There was a climate of freedom. Schools, and to some extent teachers, were allowed a considerable amount of autonomy over curriculum content and classroom practice. A mood of 'professional confidence' was noted by Thornbury (1973). This professionalism was an ill defined attribute, it implied the teacher had the skills to cope with a high level of decision making in the classroom. It embraced a wide and diffuse range of roles. However, when the School Council was established in 1964 with the purpose of preparing curriculum materials for the classroom it was stressed in the constitution that 'Teachers should be completely free to choose for themselves in curriculum matters,' and that any publications The Council produced 'would carry no authority' (cited in Thornbury op.cit p. 12).