|The Effectiveness of Teacher Resource Centre Strategy - Education research paper No. 34 (DFID, 1999, 257 p.)|
|CHAPTER TWO : The British Teachers' Centre - Its Rise and Fall: A Review of the Literature|
Once teachers centres were in place they were in an ideal position to diversify and adapt in response to a range of developments. Weindling et al give the examples of teachers' centres being ideal venues for LEA's reactions to the recommendations of various government reports (1983). They were also able to encourage teachers to find out about and make use of major developments technology at the time. These included the advent of video and the computer.
In the early 1970s, teachers centres began to be seen as useful locations for resource collections. As a result of the growing idea of producing cost effective materials for schools, they also began to house production and reproduction faculties. Thornbury (1973: 5) points out that a wide range of reading schemes and course and idea books began to 'pour' into schools and that a widening range of audio visual aids became available. It was good for teachers to be able to examine and possibly be advised on how to use such materials before deciding whether to order them. Thornbury suggests this would avoid unsuitable material finding it way into the classroom only to be left to gather dust in the stock cupboard. Weindling et al (1983) found that, while most centres had a range of resources and equipment that teachers could borrow at the centre, centres were also used as showplaces by educational publishers and manufacturers of audio visual and reprographic equipment. Several of the centre leaders in their study felt that 'exhibitions and the use of centre services' was an important way of getting teachers into the centre. Once there they found that teachers became interested in other things that were happening - further Venus fly trapping! Many of the heads felt that the centres' resources and loan of equipment service was very beneficial for schools. Primary schools were found to make more use of these facilities than the usually better equipped secondary schools.
By the end of the 1970s, teachers centres were offering a wide range of services, and reacting rapidly and often creatively to demands. In fact, being real opportunists, teachers' centres began to take on so many roles that it was increasingly difficult to define them. Centres grew on an ad hoc basis and displayed little uniformity. Weindling et al quote one centre describing its development as 'partly historical accident, partly entrepreneurial, partly taking advantage of the availability of staff and buildings, partly LEA planned response to curriculum and inSET need and partly organised teacher association contribution to the professional work of teachers, all within the constraints of available resources' (op.cit).
However, change was on the horizon. Although the James Report in 1972 and the White Paper which followed had both recommended a major expansion in inSET, Weindling et al (op.cit p.28) point out that this was 'never fully realised'. They suggest that cuts in education began to seriously affect teachers centres and closures began in the early eighties. Morant looking ahead in 1978 believed that 'general purpose teachers' centres were not going to acquire additional resources on the scale enabling them to become fully and effectively, on the one hand in-service providers and on the other change agents for curriculum development' (p203). He suggested, particularly regarding small rural multipurpose centres, that 'it is uncertain whether survival in their present form can be justified on educational or economic grounds'. Thornbury (1973: 141) looking ahead in 1973, in the light of the James Report, senses that 'new mechanisms for turning the classroom teacher into an automaton are to hand'. He suggests that 'an insidious spread of centralised curriculum could now be pushed into schools under the masquerade of inspecting what teachers have learned on courses' (ibid.).