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International Socialism, Autumn 1965


Peter Ibbotson

In the Beginning


From International Socialism, No.22, Autumn 1965, p.29.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


The Role of The Teacher in The Infant and Nursery School
Dorothy E.M. Gardner & Joan E. Cass
Pergamon Press, 19s 6d

Too many people, including Party leaders who ought to know better, think that infant and nursery school teachers are mere child minders, and therefore expendable so that the age of entry to school may be raised to six. More than adequate rebuttal of this quaint attitude comes from this report of fifteen years’ patient, painstaking and thorough research undertaken by students working under Miss Gardner and Miss Cass at London University Institute of Education’s Department of Child Development.

The research was undertaken in a number of infant schools practising informal methods of education. The object was to find out what good and successful teachers actually do when children of various ages are engaged in periods of freedom to choose their own activities; records were therefore kept of the number of times there was contact between teacher and child, and of the reason for each teacher/child contact. (The nursery school research was broadly similar in scope though different in detail because of greater mobility and informality in the nursery school.) These reasons were classifiable under 79 headings, from which it clearly emerged that the role of infant and nursery school teachers is both social and intellectual; the function of fostering intellectual growth among young children being fulfilled both directly and indirectly. Directly, by being concerned with the provision of intellectual stimulus or imparting knowledge; indirectly, by establishing a general setting which is favourable to education.

It is clear that infant and nursery school teachers are conscious of their responsibility to establish a setting favourable to education, so that attitudes favourable to learning may be developed upon which a later educational superstructure may be safely erected. It is clear, too, that the atmosphere which these good teachers engender in their classrooms and schools is an atmosphere in which children gain in confidence, independence and initiative, and have the opportunity to develop at their own rate; and to develop all-round in a spirit of co-operation (a spirit which is sadly and notably lacking at later stages in a child’s educational career). It is dear too, that the good and successful teachers would be even better and more successful were it not for factors inhibiting them: especially over-large classes, too-small classrooms, antiquated buildings and shortage of materials and equipment; factors deriving largely from a public and political failure to realise the essential importance of primary education and to give it parity with secondary.

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