What is the "secret garden"?

The title of my blog is inspired by Prime Minister Jim Callaghan's "Ruskin Speech" in 1976, when he referred to the school curriculum as a "secret garden". 

Callaghan said: "The goals of our education, from nursery school through to adult education, are clear enough. They are to equip children to the best of their ability for a lively, constructive, place in society, and also to fit them to do a job of work. Not one or the other but both. For many years the accent was simply on fitting a so-called inferior group of children with just enough learning to earn their living in the factory. Labour has attacked that attitude consistently, during 60 or 70 years and throughout my childhood. There is now widespread recognition of the need to cater for a child's personality to let it flower in its fullest possible way." 

I do not wholeheartedly endorse the views he expressed, but I do agree with his argument that the curriculum should not be a "secret garden" and that parents and others should be fully informed about the early years curriculum. Things work out best for children when parents and professionals work together in a respectful partnership. 

I hope this blog illuminates aspects of early education, its theories and its controversies, to a wider audience. I am always interested in comments, and aim to reply quickly whenever they are posted.

P.S. The main garden image I have used is from the wonderful Playlink who have been responsible for some of the most inspiring play spaces in England in recent years.   

Links to more information about the Callaghan speech:

'Towards a national debate' - the full text of the speech by Prime Minister James Callaghan, at a foundation stone-laying ceremony at Ruskin College, Oxford, on October. 18 1976. 

30 years on, Callaghan's words resonate - article by Andrew Adonis

Tony Blair's Ruskin Speech, 1996

School standards: time for debate? (Open University commentary on Callaghan's speech and its repercussions)


  1. My daughter is in Sheringham Nursery, where You are a headteacher. I've heared that education in nursery it's not very important, but i'm so glad, that in Sheringham Nursery is a headteacher who don't think like that,who loves his job and is pacionate in pedagogy. I hope my child will have a very good start for her future. Thank You.

  2. Hi - thanks for leaving your kind comment. Julian