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Stephen Bigger

Stephen Bigger PhD began his career as a secondary teacher and from 1981 was a lecturer in education in teacher training institutes, in Scarborough, Oxford and Worcester, ending as head of department and head of research in education.

Over that period he produced three books in collaboration with colleagues, made chapter contributions to others and wrote many articles and book reviews.


Connect with Stephen

https://warrenandbigger.blogspot.com

Publications by Stephen Bigger

Living Contradiction

Describes how one teacher lost himself in his rigid commitment…

Author Blog

National Curriculum

November 12 2017

By Stephen Bigger.  Response to Benjamin Doxtdator regarding my Twitter response to the post: 1990 called. They want their 'jobs of the future' skill list back (with photocopied text). My response there: This was a battle we fought in the early 1990s when the 'knowledge' National Curriculum was published. The result was Cross Curricular Skills and Themes. These enabled a degree of legal subversion.

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In 1987 I sat through a half hour diatribe by Kenneth Baker giving the reasons for the National Curriculum. The HMI Curriculum Matters booklets were part of the journey, which was a reaction to William Tyndale School excesses. Mrs Thatcher's opposition to ILEA and Schools Council which identified creative curriculum solutions. The National Curriculum, developed by the National Curriculum Council (NCC) would be subject based applying secondary school subjects even to infant schools.

Many of us were involved in NCC discussions and conferences and the common complaints from the floor were: where do skills fit? where does multicultural education go? and environmental education? and politics/citizenship. The response that subjects would include these as appropriate seemed to most as resulting in nothing being done. So, with an already packed curriculum package (remember there were 18 science ATs at this time), these cross curricular aspects would have to be shoehorned in. After more planning committees, cross curricular skills and themes were published. We pointed ot that you could base the whole curriculum around cross curricular themes, especially in primary schools. The good thing was that cross curricular themes allowed a degree of subversion away from a boring knowledge-centred litany of facts to be remembered. I recall that we welcomed the first draft of the Geography curriculum as it was values and issues based. Unfortunately by its final form it had become factual and uninteresting. History caused a bitter debate over those wanting world history and others wanting British history and Empire. The latter won. English had its battles over the literature canon, multicultural or white middle class. Those debates still go on today.

A number of colleagues worked with me to unpack curriculum subjects in terms of these themes. This resulted in the book Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Education: Values across the Curriculum. Each chapter demonstrated how subjects can operate on broader issues.

My two contributions to Leicester, Mogdil and Modgil were a) on anti-racist spiritual and religious education (volume V) and b) on the work of Birmingham Compact with whom I worked 1992-4 (volume III).

First (a) I was a religious education teacher and lecturer and was also deeply into anti-racist education. In my years religious education was being redefined as multi-faith education until the 1988 Education Reform Act brought it back to a Christian Education agenda. I supported multi-faith education; but I am currently hostile to a Christian Instruction curriculum we moved away from in the 1970s.

Secondly (b) Birmingham Compact worked mainly with KS4 and KS5 increasing motivation and skills. My paper demonstrated its effectiveness; but the agenda of Ofsted and league tables persuaded schools not to work with all pupils but to concentrate on those few who might be mentored to achieve a C and not a D.

In conclusion the debate between teaching so-called 'knowledge' and critical assessment is still live.  It is not either-or but both-and. Knowledge cannot morally be taught as final and unchallengeable. All academic effort focuses on challenging and testing knowledge-claims.

Literature:

Bigger S and Brown E (1999) Spiritual, Moral, Social and Cultural Education: Values across the Curriculum
Leicester, M, Mogdil C and Mogdil S 1999, Education, Culture and Values, volumes I-VI.

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Welcome to Schooling.

September 30 2017

This is a true story, happening even now. It is of a little 4 year old boy, bright, curious, with caring professional parents and a doting infant-teacher grandmother. He was really looking forward to his first day at school. Before lunch he had been sent to the head of year and shouted at, and before the headteacher when he was shouted at again. By the end of the day he had been sent out of class, and put in isolation for five minutes with a timer, no talking and no eye contact. He doesn't yet know what he had done wrong, and nor does he now, but he had breached some rules somewhere. He arrived home saying be was a bad boy (he isn't), a wicked boy (he certainly isn't but who spoke the word to him?). He cried himself to sleep. End of the first school day. Next morning he asked to stay at home because he is good at home and wicked at school. The teacher had never taught reception before, was not teacher trained but came via TEFL. The school website is very coy about what her qualifications actually are.
Does this ring any bells, anyone? Deep learning going on. A day to remember - indeed a day never to be forgotten.
A month later: He dislikes the school and he doesn’t want to go there! He says this every night, He gets the prospectus out,  marks it with a big cross and says this. He is just 4, from a curious bubbly child to an unhappy mess. Now a month after starting school he has lost his childhood enthusiasm and in trauma rejects friends who might get him into trouble. he has drawn right into himself. The parents are trying to negotiate  change of school.

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