As he embarks on yet another re-drafting of the National Curriculum, Mr Gove might be interested in an earlier proposal:
‘The education of man to consist of three stages, of seven years each.
The first seven to comprehend the teaching of languages and the nomenclature of all science in nature and art; with some manipulating labour for the fingers, in sewing, platting, netting, split willow basket-making, and exercise for the body in running and walking.
The second stage, from seven to fourteen, practical lessons in all the manual arts valuable to man, with the continuation of the teaching of languages and all intellectual knowledge in nature and art, and the art of dancing.
The third stage, from fourteen to twenty-one, the perfecting of all manual labour, science and languages.’
These are the opening paragraphs of the ‘Description of the Natural University , or Elysian Academy, in detail’, from ‘The Happy Colony’ by Robert Pemberton, a utopian treatise published in 1854. It’s just one of the fascinating early works on education we are discovering in the large collection of books from the former Ministry of Education library, which we purchased last year, and are now sorting and evaluating.