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‘The Rag-bag of All the Subjects’: English in a London Grammar School, 1945–1963

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Evidence from a recent study of English teaching in three London schools in the post-war era suggests that changes to curriculum and pedagogy, commonly attributed by historians to the 1960s, were well underway in the 1950s. Major changes associated with ‘New English’ occurred when teachers began taking the lives and experiences of their pupils as material for English lessons. However, changes in an all-boys grammar school followed a different path. Using oral history methods combined with mixed documentary evidence (including teachers’ records and pupils’ work), we reconstruct the experience – the aims and beliefs – of a left-wing grammar school teacher, and we show how, under the influence of F. R. Leavis and the Scrutiny movement, he made response to literature a central activity at a moment when the place of English was uncertain, and the subject lacked academic prestige.
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Keywords: New English; curriculum; grammar school; literature; pedagogy

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute of Education, University of London, London, UK

Publication date: June 1, 2013

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