Harry Judge: a tribute

Harry Judge was Director of the then Oxford Department of Educational Studies when I arrived in Oxford in September 1979 to read for a higher degree. As a teacher with nearly a decade of teaching in a comprehensive school in Tottenham behind me, Oxford was a culture shock. However, Harry Judge was one of those that helped make my time at Norham Gardens memorable. He also inspired much of my interest in both teacher education and the careers of teachers that has continued to this day.

I especially recall his lectures on both the McNair Report and the James Report, where he had been a member of the Committee chaired by Lord James. Although the oil crisis of 1972 scuppered much of what James had recommended for in-service professional development for the teaching profession, the need for a sound education before becoming a teacher was accepted, along with the fact that a teacher preparation course was necessary for all by way of both pre-service training and induction. Not for James and Harry Judge the notion of Michael Gove that anyone with a good education can become a teacher.

Although much has changed in the period of approaching half a century since the James Committee was set up, this paragraph can still strike a cord, especially with those trainees not able to find a job immediately after completing their teacher preparation course.

“The probationary teacher, in fact, leaves his [sic] college on the last day of term and never hears of or from it again. Nor does the school to which he goes communicate with the college, even if difficulties arise. He is pleasantly received at his school (as would be any newly appointed member of staff, whether or not in a first appointment) and introduced, formally or informally, to the ways of the place. No one suggests to him that he is in a special situation, or entitled to unusual help. He may be invited by the LEA to attend a tea party but will probably not go and, if he does, that will be his last meeting with its officers or advisers. He teaches a full timetable including one or two of the notoriously difficult groups of pupils. No one goes near him in the mistaken belief that to do so would be to interfere with his professional integrity. At the end of the year he receives a note informing him that the probationary year has been satisfactorily completed, and he is now a fully qualified teacher. This gap between theory and practice reflects an equally alarming gap between the interpretation of the probationary year by colleges and departments on the one hand and schools on the other. Colleges rightly insist that a profession should accept a major responsibility in incorporating its own members and, in any case, they cannot themselves do everything, and cannot produce a standard and universally valid form of training which will enable everyone to do everything everywhere. The schools rightly insist that ‘the system’ does in fact presuppose that a new teacher is fully trained, and they are given neither resources nor encouragement to become effective partners in the training.”   James Report paragraph 3.9

School-based training, SCITTs and partnerships have helped eradicate the worst of the problems mentioned above, but a market system and a weakened third cycle of professional development can still leave too many new teachers without an ideal introduction to the profession: hence the unnecessary wastage rates for new teachers.

Harry Judge helped pioneer the successful partnership model for the PGCE at Oxford, as well as inspiring many teachers and leaders in the field of education. I am glad to have known and studied on courses that he taught. He was a major influence on my life in the field of education. Thank you Harry.





What’s the collective noun for a group of schools?

How many angels can you gather on the head of a pin? How many words can you inscribe on the back of a postage stamp? Along with raffle prizes about either how many sweets there are in the bottle or undergraduates in a phone box – note for younger readers, phone boxes were largely red sites for fixed landline telephones. Unlike police boxes they have yet to be immortalised in a hit TV series, but appear regularly in period dramas and old films. The K1 design is an ionic British deign classic of the 1930s.

Anyway, enough of nostalgia and factoids, the purpose of this introduction is to lead into a consideration of how many secondary schools will be located in my County Council division in North Oxford by September 2019? This week, the temporary home for Oxford’s new secondary free school, the Swan School, was announced as being on the south side of the Marston Ferry Road, just inside my division and almost next door to the excising Cherwell School. In 2020, or more likely 2021, the Swan School will move eastwards to it permanent home at the other end of the road, assuming pupil number post-Brexit require an extra school in Oxford.

However, the potential arrival of the Swan School to join the Cherwell School, both part of the River Learning Trust MAT, even on a temporary basis, set me thinking about how many schools with pupils of secondary school age were congregated in the small patch of north Oxford that I represent on the County Council? At the last count, the total for September 2019 will be eight schools, with an ninth just outside the boundary of the division.

In total, according to DfE figures and including the 120 new Swan School pupils, this will mean about 4,000 pupils are educated at schools containing secondary age pupils and located in my Division. Add in the school just outside the boundary and the total is heading towards the 4,500 figure.

Of course, since two are preparatory schools and others of the six private schools have pupils younger than eleven on roll, so the actual number of secondary age pupils is lower than the overall total for pupil numbers on roll. At least four of the schools also have boarders, so the number arriving and leaving each day is also somewhat less than the overall total. Still it does create pressure on the road system. This is despite fact that some of the private schools arrange for coaches to pick up some pupils and The Cherwell School is feted as having the largest proportion of pupils of any secondary school that cycle to school each day.

Does eight secondary schools, all located in one county division, count as some sort of record? Would it justify an entry into the record books? I would be interested to hear of anyone that has more secondary schools in one electoral division for a Councillor. Some MPs will have more such schools, but few many have such a diverse range.

Finally, there are also two state primary schools within my division, and also nurseries, childminders and other provision for the under-fives, plus a couple of Oxford Universities colleges. Perhaps it is a good thing that I have such an interest in education.


Trenches and Destruction

It isn’t the usual function of this blog to recommend possible curriculum material for teachers, but this new book is an exception. The book, which is an edited collection of letters written by a women whose home at the start of the First World War was in a North Oxford Road, is interesting in several ways. Her then home is now part of the Department for Education in Norham Gardens and contains the room where I was interviewed in 1978 for a place on their MSc course.

The author, Pleasance Walker, herself, is unusual because she became a volunteer nurse not for the British Red Cross but for the French Red Cross Society and served in French hospitals from 1915 to early in 1919. Her letters home span this period and this book is an edited collection of those letters. The collection has been skilfully edited by Caroline Roaf, herself a former teacher and someone familiar with the Education Department in Norham Gardens.

So, this book is interesting as original text because it is a collection of letters by a women – there aren’t many of those; it is from a women serving in France – there are even less of those and it is from a women serving in a range of different French hospitals, and it that respect, if not unique, it certainly joins a very small and distinguished cannon of letters about the 1914-18 war.

Along with domestic issues, about what to buy as Christmas presents, there are accounts of the wounds her patients, including at one point an English soldier, suffered, as well as those struck down by illness and disease: not all in hospital are battle casualties. It the latter part of the war and the months after the Armistice, Pleasance moved around as her unit transferred to different locations when the front advanced during the hectic last 100 days of warfare during the autumn of 1918.

The letters by Pleasance reveal the sheer drudgery of life as the war entered its latter years and privations grew, even in France were the need to import food was less significant than in Britain. They are also full of intimate details as well as thoughts about the progress of the war and when it might end.

Whether for history at GCSE or even PSHE this book can be a valuable addition to a library as a source of primary reference from a source that parallels so many already in existence.

The book is published by Oxfordfolio Publications and the full title is Trenches and Destruction Letters from the Front 1915-1919 by Pleasance Walker Edited by Caroline Roaf. The ISBN is 978-0-9956794-4-3 and it costs only £10, so it isn’t going to break the bank and proceeds go to support the Museum of Oxford. More details and the publisher’s notes can be found at: http://oxfordfolio.co.uk/Untitled-project The full collection of letters is now preserved in Oxford and can be consulted by researchers interested in the field.