Fulmer’s Contribution to the First National Curriculum
by Ron Lewin and David Davies
Ron Lewin recalls
In October 1976 Jim Callaghan gave a speech at Oxford, which centred on the poor state of the UK economy. He concluded with a plea for students leaving our Universities to make a contribution to wealth creation in the UK.
This speech started a whole train of initiatives, one of which was the Department of Trade and Industry setting up an Industry Education Unit headed by Dr Eric Bates. Eric was a regular visitor to Fulmer before he joined the DTI and knew of some of our initiatives to encourage young students into science. The result was that he invited us to submit a proposal to develop the work further.
The proposal included the following aims and objectives: –
- To demonstrate ways in which school children can become interested in engineering and technology, and manufacturing industry generally.
- To encourage more children including the more able to develop an interest in manufacturing industry by closely involving local schools and industry
- To influence attitudes of all teachers (e.g., in general studies) as well as those in science, mathematics and craft subjects.
- To influence the attitudes of industry by
- Helping industry be more articulate about its needs and aims
- Helping industry to think more about the use it makes of its employees.
Fulmer’s proposal was accepted and a new project (R787) started on September 1st 1978. The funds were not sufficient to allow us to spend much time on the project but Norman Waterman, David Davies, John Denison and I fitted the work in between more conventional Fulmer activities. Our director, Dr Eric Duckworth, should also be given the credit for his personal involvement. He said to me ‘If you really believe in the value of this work then you need to spend most of your efforts to get it off the ground’. These were wise words.
I was very concerned that we would soon use up our funding but had no idea of the collusion between Dr Duckworth and Dr Bates. They both were very committed to finding ways to attract more able pupils into science and technology. The result was a gentle stream of funds being made available as the project grew.
We started in a modest way with six schools, three from Buckinghamshire and three from Berkshire. A steering committee of Head teachers, the CEO from Berkshire and Tony Bond from the Department of Industry was appointed.
The two pictures show early experiments on measuring the breaking strength of fresh eggs, one with children of Fulmer staff in the Fulmer Board Room the other at a local primary school.
I was personally very encouraged when The Department of Trade and Industry forwarded the following thank you note from 10-year-old student Ivanka.
My last project before moving from Fulmer into a full-time education post was to make a film of our work with Sixth form students at Cox Green school, Maidenhead.
The film was funded by Rolls – Royce Own Unit and photographed by Rolls-Royce Vision Associates Inc. The film was very professionally produced and won an Award for Best Education Film 1981. The film was issued to all schools in the UK and Rolls-Royce schools abroad where there were US links.
Dr Eric Duckworth said publicly that the Fulmer Industry Education Project was one of the most important pieces of work Fulmer had ever undertaken.
Fulmer’s Industry/Education work and the follow-on Fulmer/Berkshire project described below contributed to Science and Technology in The Education Reform Act 1988.
David Davies continues with his recollections
I was familiar with Ron’s R787 Industry Education work and had participated in several discussions on it. I much admired his original approach. It was a time when microelectronics and microcomputers were making rapid progress and I became convinced of the need to teach information concepts in schools.
In pursuance of this, in 1981 I carried out a demonstration project at John Colet County Secondary School, Wendover using microcomputers to demonstrate the concept of “Control”. As an introduction to the session Ron showed his film “Technology is Fun”. Ron was part of the team preparing this demonstration as was John Denison and we had the help of a teacher seconded to us from Aylesbury Grammar School. Following improvements after this pilot, the demonstration was repeated at Dr Challoner Grammar School, Amersham[i].
When Ron left Fulmer to join the education advisory team at Berkshire County Council, Eric Duckworth was determined that Fulmer’s education work should continue. He persuaded two charitable trusts, the Comino Foundation and the Gatsby Charitable Foundation to join with the Industry Education Unit of the DTI in funding a joint project between Fulmer and Berkshire. This had the title “The Fulmer/Berkshire Project: Towards more Relevant Education”. I managed this project jointly with John Lambert, the Chief Education Advisor of Berkshire. Together we recruited Peter Devereux, an experienced secondary school teacher (no relation to Fulmer’s founder) to lead the project. He worked with me at Fulmer on the understanding that he would join the Berkshire staff when the project was complete. Ron also continued to be involved, making a major contribution to the Fulmer/Berkshire Project curriculum development.
The main work of the project was the development of teaching materials across the whole curriculum with subject teachers in four Berkshire secondary Schools: Altwood School, Maidenhead; The Downs School, Compton; Maiden Erlegh School, Reading and Sandhurst School, Camberley and with some of their feeder primary schools. We emphasised opportunities for pupils to work in small teams with specialized individual roles within the team and well-defined team goals.
The project was well received and was featured in the Times Educational Supplement[ii].
… and finally a project anecdote from Ron
This project was developed by David and John at my request for a Home Economics Course for the HE Adviser Pat Curtis.
Although Home Economics pupils carried out simple planning in making recipes, Pat was keen to show how scientists can do things like making a cake, very precisely, using techniques called Research Planning Diagrams. These were developed by David Davies at Fulmer.
I was delighted to have the challenge, especially since cooking is one of my favourite pastimes and is linked to my professional subject of chemistry. The problem-solving projects carried out at Fulmer seem a little distant from making a Victoria sponge but in fact the same principles apply.
The Home Economics Course was based on making Lasagne using a traditional recipe and adopting established procedures.
David was delighted to take on the challenge of developing a planning diagram for Lasagne. On the day of the course, I felt very relaxed and keen to show the value of adding some science to the recipe.
I handed out several examples of the lasagne recipe from different cookery books. Working in small groups I asked the teachers to make a planning diagram which defined exactly what they were supposed to do.
This is where the fun started!
After an hour there was very little agreement and so I brought out the ‘professional solution’ and handed out a copy to each of the teachers. Confusion reigned and it soon became clear that they were far from happy. I invited one of the more sceptical teachers to step forward and question my solution.
Knowing the professional ability of my colleagues I felt assured that my solution was correct.
I handed the teacher the chalk and in one minute I found myself on the defensive. The dialogue went along the following lines, starting with the teacher.
‘Are you sure that your planning diagram is correct?’
‘I do believe you will find it correct’
‘I’m sure most of my colleagues would agree the first thing when cooking a Lasagne is to put on the oven at a specified temperature.
‘Certainly I agree.’
‘I notice that in your plan you have cooked the Lasagne without turning on the oven’.
‘Also I notice that nobody did any washing up’
In no way did they wish to be hurtful and suggested having a break for a cup of tea to cool things down.
‘I limply said ‘Don’t forget to put the kettle on’ and the quick reply was ’Did you put any water in the kettle?’
After 50 years I must acknowledge the staff at Fulmer, the DTI, the schools, the Education Advisory Staff, and particularly the students.
FRHG ref: V111
[i] Davies, D G S, Williams, G, Denison, S j, and Lewin R H (1981) Microelectronics and its Implications: Awareness and Appreciation in Schools. Demonstration Project on the teaching of Information Concepts R890/1 November 1981
[ii] Makins V (1986), The way it ought to be. The Times Educational Supplement 28 April 1986 p24-25 (G500G501)