"No one had thought to ask, let alone answer the question: Could the emerging national curriculum be taught within the teaching year?"

Donald Naismith was the education officer for twenty years serving under the educational directive of England’s stateswoman, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher. The author published this 227-page sketch to guarantee access to specific documentation that details activities initiated by three borough schools: Richmond upon Thames, Croydon, and Wandsworth. Thatcher’s directive was to remove the influence over a modern school system by local officials. However, it turned out that these local boards voluntarily followed through to help achieve Thatcher’s comprehensive educational goal. Other issues that presented roadblocks included changes in government leadership, economic difficulties, a reduced number of school candidates, and assessment testing.

The author’s viewpoint was influenced by successfully passing through to college from the local schools of Bradford. Even back in 1905, Bradford already had 12.5 secondary pupils to 1000 members of the population. Allowing, if not encouraging, local participation and advanced efforts by three boroughs were what got Naismith “very near the line.” Instead, his instincts drew together the forces and capabilities of local education to achieve the desired results.

In this 217-page sketch, Naismith skillfully dons the hats of an archivist and an editor. Events he chose to record occurred between 1974 and 1994 and include the dramas of closing a county girls’ school and a teachers’ union strike because of unpaid hours required for assessment testing. The quotes Naismith selected from news articles of the times show off his editorial skills and resemble reading a sports page: “Very near the line” (between fair and unfair); “a step too far”; sent this “hot potato” back up to the Secretary of State; “the teachers take us to court” in their strike. Appendices and resources provide in-depth looks. Of special interest to any in the teaching profession will be the Croydon curriculum adopted in 1984.

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