Archives For Forum

for-coverThe summer number of Forum is now available online. The full list of contents are here.

The editorial is open access, as is the journal’s response to the White Paper ‘Educational Excellence Everywhere.’

Other content in the journal can be accessed by subscription. Details of subscription rates can be found here. The journal has recently introduced a very competitive ‘online only’ subscription – for £12 (VAT regulations mean this is only available to UK residents only).  We believe Forum provides unique insight and analysis – which it has done consistently for many years. A subscription gives you access to all Forum’s content, but also supports us develop the journal. If you like what you read, please subscribe.

Supporting Forum . . .

There are many, simple, ways anyone can support the journal in addition to subscribing. Where you can, please consider the following actions.

  • Follow us on twitter @Forum3to19 – and RT our links to content.
  • Like Forum on Facebook.
  • Follow the Forum blog (click on the ‘follow’ tab on the top right hand of the site).
  • Use Forum articles for course reading lists. Material is topical, engaging and contributors are often leading thinkers and writers.
  • If you work in a university please recommend Forum to your librarian.
  • Finally, please talk about us – face to face, online, via social media. Tell colleagues, friends, contacts in campaigning organisations. Share links to our articles. Spread the words because we think the words have important things to say 🙂

It is a battle of ideas and there is a world to win . . . help Forum make a difference.



simon brian

The Brian Simon Memorial Lecture will be given at 2.00pm on Saturday 3 October by Alison Peacock.
Her title is: ‘Children First: an alternative approach to assessment‘.
The venue for the lecture is: Clarke Hall, UCL Institute of Education, Bedford Way, London.

Clarke Hall is situated on Level 3 of the IoE main building.  Web-page (with directions: bottom left corner) here:

Brian Simon was the founding editor of Forum.

Forum: for promoting 3-19 comprehensive education has now been in existence for 57 years. It was founded by Professor Brian Simon as a journal to promote the emerging comprehensive movement in education – challenging the damaging consequences of fixed ability thinking and its most obvious manifestations, streaming and selection.


For all that time Forum has been consistent in its commitment to comprehensive education, in its broadest sense. It has also been consistent in its commitment to education as a public good – recognising that if we want to educate young people for democracy then education itself must be democratic.

Those aspirations certainly seem distant at the current time – we read about streaming in reception classes, government support for selection and every day more and more of our education system is handed over to private providers.

But Brian Simon recognised that the goal of comprehensive education would always be resisted, and therefore those who believe in it would always have to fight for it.  Forum continues to play a vital role in the battle of ideas over the future of our school system. In recent issues many of the key education thinkers have featured in the journal – you can see a full list of articles here.

We are now delighted to introduce a new internet-only subscription at the special price of £12. This provides online access to the journal for a year, plus access to all back issues (including those currently unavailable by open access). This is a special offer designed to make sure that the journal becomes much more widely available to teachers and others committed to defending and extending the vision of comprehensive education.

We invite you to become a subscriber.  Not only does the subscription represent exceptional value – providing you with access to excellent articles and powerful arguments in support of public,comprehensive schooling, but it also provides important support to the journal.

Forum is the only journal making the case for the type of education system you believe in, and it is needed now more than ever. However it must expand its readership if it is to play a key role in supporting the wider movement for a more optimistic and hopeful vision of education.  A subscription  is a very practical way you can help us build the journal.

To take advantage of this offer – please download the subscription form here and return to the address indicated – FORUM leaflet 4pp(2)

Thank you for your support.

Patrick Yarker and Howard Stevenson  (co-editors)

In summer 2014 Rene Kneyber wrote an article for Forum in  which he discussed the Flip the System project.  His article can be downloaded here – 16_Kneyber_FORUM_56_2_web

Many of the themes and priorities highlighted by Flip the System initiative have been the concern of Forum for many years.  All articles more than two years old are open access. A full list of the journal’s contents can be found here.

If you are a delegate at the Education International conference in Ottawa, you may be particularly interested in the current issue – Education in a world wracked by crisis, focused on the GERM and with articles from Greece, Chicago, Turkey, Sweden and the Republic of Ireland. [Copies of these particular articles are downloadable from the TeacherSolidarity website – follow the link to the Research Collaborative page and search the contents list on the right hand site.  This part of the website is still being developed and some items can take a little bit of hunting down!]

Greek teachers on strike

Greek teachers on strike

The summer issue of Forum was focused on international developments in education and the impact of global neoliberal restructuring.

One of the articles describes how Troika policies have had an impact on Greek schools, students and teachers. The article is written by Pavlos Charamis and Themis Kotsifakis of OLME, the Greek secondary school teachers’ union.


You can download the article here – 4_Charamis_FORUM_57_2_web(1)

for-coverWhat counts as useful or productive talk in today’s classroom? Who decides, and on what basis? To what extent and in what ways is the spoken language of young people being made use of in school?

It is argued that what Valerie Coultas terms an ‘elocution model’ has gained ground over a model that sees different kinds of talk in the classroom as central to meaning-making and to making those meanings available to other people, so that they may respond. Opportunities for students to talk together in the language they bring to the classroom, and to have that language recognised as the vital starting-point for learning, seem to have been further marginalised.

What, then, is the state of classroom talk? Is the standard Initiation-Feedback-Response/Evaluation pattern still dominant? Are teachers and students talking together more, and in more varied ways? How much time do students spend talking with each other about curriculum-content, making it mean in ways that make sense to them? To what extent can students own (if they don’t already) the language they find they are required or expected to use in the classroom? How much does it matter if, when the teacher listens in, students aren’t talking about what the teacher wants talked about? What are teachers doing to support productive small group talk, and what else might they do? How is such talk made use of to enhance writing? What role does gender continue to play in the dynamics of talk in the classroom? What about other socially-constructed factors? What about patterns of friendship and enmity?

FORUM 58/1, to be published in the Spring of 2016, will hope to carry articles which engage with such questions. Writing which describes and considers exciting, innovatory practice is particularly welcomed, as is writing which illuminates the educational value of talk (sanctioned or otherwise) between students, and/or talk which is student-initiated, as well as that which is teacher-prompted.

There is no set length for a FORUM article, although many are about 3000 words long. It is very helpful if you include a short Abstract with your article. A contact-email address is essential.

If you are interested in writing for FORUM 58/1 and would like to discuss a possible article, please don’t hesitate to contact me on: .

The deadline for articles is Friday 2 October 2015. You are welcome to send me your writing sooner.

Thank-you for reading this invitation. I look forward very much to hearing from you.

Best wishes,

Patrick Yarker

Editor: FORUM Spring 2016                                                      

for-coverAbout a month ago I had to write the editorial for the Summer number of Forum. Writing before the election result was known presented some challenges, and as the text below indicates, my sense of the outcome was inaccurate.  I am not sure however that the substantive argument has changed one iota – indeed I would argue that the outcome of the election has made the arguments, and its implications for action, only more pressing (see Mary Bousted’s analysis of what is to come here).

Where the argument in my editorial needs much further development is in relation to the ‘how’ of building the ‘mass movement’ I refer to. It is the worst form of ultra-leftism to assume that all we have to do is urge people to the barricades, and that if we do it long enough and loud enough, they will follow.  The real challenge is to understand how we develop ‘movements from below’ – in quite difficult times (election defeats may engender anger – but they also encourage pessimism).  My recent research has focused on ‘movement building’ a good deal, by looking at community based campaigns that have challenged academisation.  There is much to learn – from both the successes and the failures – and in the months ahead I have plans to develop this work, and to use it to try to support both community organisers and union activists in defence of public education.  What is now abundantly clear, is that if public education is to be salvaged, and the drive to marketisation is to be challenged, then we must, collectively, ‘mobilise’. But how we make that happen needs hard thinking, those offering easy answers are best given a wide berth. Pessimism of the intellect, optimism of the will . . . always.

Anyway, my Forum editorial here . . .

Education: looking beyond (the) election(s)

Due to Forum’s publishing schedule the summer number of any volume is presented to the publisher for production in April. This year that is particularly significant because it presents the challenge of writing an editorial about the politics of education in advance of a really significant political event for education – the general election. At the time of writing, three weeks prior to polling day, the opinion polls seem certain about only one thing – that the outcome will not produce a single party majority government.

How much of a challenge does this provide for an editorial writer without the benefits of a crystal ball? Perhaps at one level, not very much. In the Autumn 2014 number of Forum, Clyde Chitty’s editorial entitled ‘Life After Gove’ chastised those who set too much store by the Secretary of State’s departure and argued that all that could be reasonably expected in a post-Gove Department for Education was ‘business as usual’. Clyde acknowledged that personalities do matter, but argued we need to look at a much bigger picture to see the likely direction of travel of future policy. In this article I want to argue something broadly similar – much of the future of education policy in England can be predicted regardless of the outcome of the election.

This is not to argue that the result of the election will make no difference to education policy. Elections do matter, and a government with Ed Miliband as Prime Minister will be different to one in which David Cameron continues in the role. Those differences will be meaningful, and to very many people, in some form, the defeat of a Tory-led government will make a very real difference to their lives.

However, there is always a danger, and particularly at the time of an election, that we focus too much on what are small details in policy, and we also neglect the many forces outside a national government that have a stake in shaping the reality of what education really feels like to those who study and work in schools. This tendency to parochialism is already illustrated by this editorial. Nearly 400 words in and the reader could be forgiven for thinking that not only is the only election that matters the UK election, but that the only education policy that matters is English education policy.

This issue of Forum seeks to look beyond the outcome of the UK election, and beyond the borders of any one nation, and to locate developments in our schools in a much broader context – that of a neoliberal age in which national borders are becoming less and less relevant. National governments still matter, but there are powerful commercial interests that matter more. Understanding these global developments better is how we can hope to challenge them. (For a full list of contents see  here – the issue will be available in July).

The articles in this issue of Forum therefore seek to do two things. First, is to draw on the experiences of teachers and researchers from various parts of the world to illustrate how the global education reform movement (or ‘GERM’) is impacting schooling in different national contexts. Second, is to understand how those who challenge these developments are seeking to build ‘movements from below’ to speak back to the neoliberal ‘revolution from above’.

We are delighted to include a number of articles that help illuminate developments and struggles in some key parts of the globe at the current time. For example, Pavlos Charamis and Themis Kotsifakis from the Greek teachers’ union OLME, give an insight into the crisis facing Greek students and teachers as they look to Syriza to turn the tide on austerity. Carol Caref and Kristine Mayle provide an account of developments in Chicago where an alliance of union members and the community has had considerable success in challenging school closure programmes and other reforms. Fintan O’Mahony and Halil Buyruk provide accounts of how neoliberal reforms are reshaping schooling in Ireland and Turkey respectively and highlight the need to understand how global pressures intersect with local contexts and how that results in the specific experiences of students and teachers in different nations. Alison Milner provides a fascinating insight into the experiences of four teachers working in Swedish Free Schools and the challenges posed to their sense of professionalism working in schools driven by profit.

Several of these articles seek to connect the experience of market driven reforms with those who have organised to challenge these developments. Within these articles the emphasis is on trade union organisation, although what also emerges is the need for such mobilisations to build alliances with a much wider range of forces such as parents and students. What also emerges from these accounts of resistance is the need to connect activism with ideas and to understand that the counter-hegemonic challenge to neoliberalism must be constructed intellectually as well as in the classrooms and on the streets. One of the great strengths of what Stuart Hall called the ‘great moving Right show’ has been its ability to mobilise intellectual resources as part of the battle of ideas and we see this very clearly in education today. One effort to challenge this is an initiative by academics and researchers to mobilise their reasources in alliance with the organising strategy set out by Kevin Courtney and Gawain Little in the summer 2014 number of Forum. The project has called itself ‘Reclaiming Schools’ arguing ‘There is an urgent need to reclaim schools from the corporate interests that increasingly drive education policy… We will play a part in the struggle to reclaim schools for a more optimistic vision of education.’ . It seeks to provide the evidence and arguments to help activists in their campaigning work, and in this issue of Forum we carry three contributions from the Reclaiming Schools project – the articles by Susan Robertson, Pat Thomson and Peter Moss.

In all of these contributions it is always important to balance an understanding of the global, with a focus on the local. There are hugely powerful global pressures, but they play out in different places in different ways (see Terry Wrigley’s article on the curriculum or Alex Kenny and Baljeet Ghale’s contributions on ‘British Values’). The remaining articles in this issue do focus on England – but they highlight the extent to which England has acted as the laboratory for neoliberalism’s huge experiment with public education. Competition (Eddie Playfair) and crude performativity (Phil Taylor and Andy Richards) combine with the heavy hand of Ofsted (Colin Richards) to create a toxic mix of markets and managerialism in the English state system, with many of these developments now being replicated in their own ways across the world.

What is apparent, is that by the time this editorial appears in print, and the outcome of the UK election will have become clear, the challenge facing those who believe in the principles that have always guided Forum for over 50 years will remain the same. Whatever the colour of the government, public education needs a mass movement in which teachers, parents and students mobilise around an education system that places the values of social justice and democracy at its heart. It would be nice to believe that such a movement could emerge from the type of initiative that Eddie Playfair sets out in his brilliant article in this issue. A new ‘Great Debate’ in which we collectively engage with the fundamental questions in education – what is education for and what type of education system do we really want? Given that whoever is in government beyond May 2015 this is unlikely, then there is no option but to build from below and, borrowing from the American Federation of Teachers, reclaim the promise of public education.

Howard Stevenson, April 2015.

There has recently been a debate on twitter about mixed ability teaching – see for example Emma Ann Hardy’s blog.

Forum is a journal that has been campaigning against fixed ability practices in schools for over 50 years.  The journal is published three times a year.  It is published by a small independent publisher and unfortunately we cannot make the journal completely open access.  All articles more than three years old are openly available (and now the whole back catalogue of the journal is available online).

The journal has carried countless articles, by teachers and academics, in support of ‘mixed ability’ teaching – but as a contribution to the debate on twitter, here are some recent ones.  Three of them relate to mathematics teaching – the area that many argue is the most problematic as far as mixed ability teaching is concerned.

Streaming and Setting in UK Primary Schools: evidence from the Millennium Cohort Study

Susan Hallam

This article provides a brief historical perspective on structured ability grouping, a summary of recent research on streaming and setting amongst seven-year-olds from the Millennium Cohort Study, and considers some of the implications of what appears to be an increase in structured ability grouping in the primary school.

Susan’s article downloadable here – 11_Hallam_FORUM_54_1_web

The Blue Table Means You Don’t Have a Clue’: the persistence of fixed-ability thinking and practices in primary mathematics in English schools

Rachel Marks

The use of structured ability grouping is increasing in English primary schools and is regularly seen in primary mathematics classrooms. Ability is a normalised discourse with beliefs that some individuals are ‘born to do maths’ permeating society and infiltrating school practices. In this article, observation and interview data illustrate the persistence of fixed-ability thinking, even in situations where explicit ability-grouping practices are not used. The data analysis suggests a mismatch between mixed-ability practices and fixed-ability thinking, and the article argues that change will be difficult.

Rachel’s article downloadable here – 4_Marks_FORUM_55_1_web

The Dinosaur in the Classroom: what we stand to lose through ability-grouping in the primary school

Rachel Marks

Embedding setting (subject-based ability-grouping) into the primary school environment creates structural conflict – physically and culturally – fundamentally changing the nature of primary schools through the imposition of secondary practices and cultures and the loss of pastoral care. This article examines the hidden implications for teachers and pupils of taking on secondary school roles within the primary school context. It highlights the wide-ranging, yet nuanced impacts of the use of setting, examining the shift towards subject-based thinking and the erosion of the pastoral-centred holistic ethos of primary education.

Rachel’s article downloadable here – 7_Marks_FORUM_56_1_web

The ‘Psychological Prisons’ from which They Never Escaped: the role of ability grouping in reproducing social class inequalities

Jo Boaler

In stark contrast to the recommendations of the current White Paper, Jo Boaler’s recent research suggests that the radical progressive state school commitment to mixed ability teaching has, in the case of this landmark study, led to better results and better life-chances than its more traditional counterpart whose ability grouping practices created, in the words of one ex-pupil, ‘psychological prisons’ that ‘break ambition’ and ‘almost formally label kids as stupid’. If ability grouping reproduces social class inequalities any political party that really cares about social justice must look again at the norms of ability segregation that blights so much of contemporary practice. In their stead we need equitable and effective grouping polices that promote high achievement for all.

Jo Boaler’s article downloadable here – 9_Boaler_FORUM_47_2-3_web

for-coverOf all the things I do, perhaps one of the ones I am most proud of is my role as a co-editor of Forum. The journal was founded over 50 years ago by Brian Simon, and to be able to help maintain the tradition that Brian established feels like both a pleasure and a privilege. I have just edited my first issue (I co-edit with Clyde Chitty and Patrick Yarker, each of us taking an issue per year).  My issue is themed around Teachers Reclaiming Teaching.  My editorial is downloadable here – and is open access.  The list of contents for the issue is here.

All Forum articles published more than 3 years ago are available by open access.  This now extends back to the very first issue – a wonderful resource chronicling the rich history of the campaign for comprehensive education!

simon brian

Forum’s founding editor, Brian Simon

Every issue of FORUM from its first issue in 1958 is now freely available online (but NB subscription needed for 3 most recent volumes).

For over fifty years FORUM has been in the thick of the struggle for comprehensive education in Britain.  Back in the Autumn of 1958 the inaugural issue declared that the journal would concern itself with four principal areas: the new types of school being developed around the country, the steps modern schools were taking to transcend their limitations, the attempt to re-think the way pupils were organised (which meant the movement away from streaming), and new approaches to the content of education.  The journal would provide a basis of facts and ideas, and a locus for lively discussion and the exchange of experiences.  Its pages would be steeped in the issues and questions of the day, for they would be written by those working in the new schools and committed to the new trends in education.

Now the FORUM archive offers readers the chance freely to access every single article ever published in the journal since its inception.  As well as scholarly pieces by writers such as Brian Simon, Michael Armstrong and Constance Rosen, readers will find first-hand accounts of classroom experience by teachers (for example: ‘teaching unstreamed English’ or ‘introducing Nuffield Science into school’).  They will find analysis of the politics of educational change from commentators as acute as Caroline Benn, Robin Pedley and Clyde Chitty.  They will find opinion and discussion pieces by teachers and academics, evidence presented to public commissions (notably the Plowden Committee), critical symposia, case-studies, book-reviews, even a range of adverts for educational books and materials.

FORUM declared itself a journal by and for teachers, administrators, advisers, parents, governors and councillors.  Their words, and the words of academics, fill the pages of the archive.  Politically engaged, always internationalist, rooted in real classrooms and schools, and enduringly at the leading-edge of progressive educational change, the archive is a testimony to victories and defeats as experienced by those who participated in the struggle, and continue to do so.  Multi-racial and anti-racist education, testing and teaching, education 16-19, the 1988 Education Reform Act, assessment, provision for the rising-fives, new technologies in school, the reflective practitioner…  Decade by decade, such sub-headings indicate the wealth of material accessible now at

The Editorial Board of FORUM, and their publishers, are immensely grateful to Angela Cutts, Librarian at the Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge, and to her colleagues, who so kindly (and very bravely) allowed their stock of printed back numbers to be copied to create this archive.