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Forum: journal relaunch marks a new phase in the campaign for genuinely comprehensive education

Posted on 12/05/2021

We are delighted to announce that our journal FORUM: for promoting 3 to 19 comprehensive education’ has  relaunched with a new partnership with Lawrence Wishart.

For more than sixty years FORUM has been a progressive journal where ideas about educational practice and policy have been discussed and experiences exchanged. For all of this period the journal has advocated and campaigned for the comprehensive ideal in education, charting both the advances and the set-backs of a movement committed to a common non-selective system of schooling and the greatest possible affordance of opportunity for all learners – whatever their age – as an entitlement not a privilege. The journal publishes papers from contributors across every phase of education. It welcomes contributions that engage with or explore any relevant issue, including matters of pedagogy, curriculum and assessment; inclusion; student voices; educational policy, provision, oversight and inspection; democracy and education; and alternative educational vision and practice. We particularly welcome contributions that help spread news of comprehensive success in this country and beyond, or explore the implications of the comprehensive ideal, help meet its challenges and take it forward. The journal has always welcomed a wide range of contributors, from established names in the education world to those writing their first article. A hallmark of the journal continues to be its blend of writing: teachers, researchers and campaigners all feature in its pages.  We encourage anyone interested in writing for Forum to contact the editorial team to discuss your ideas.

The relaunch of the journal could not be timelier. It is often assumed that the battle for comprehensive education has been won because formal selection at eleven is relatively rare in Britain. In reality, the battle is far from won. The divisive 11+ has never been eliminated, and continues to damage educational opportunities for young people directly in certain areas of the country. Selection within schools on the basis of so-called ‘ability’ remains a pervasive feature at Primary and Secondary level. The private school system of course appears as resilient as ever, allowing those with money to buy access to better resources and exclusivity. Perhaps the biggest problem of all is the most hidden – the way that marketisation, high-stakes summative testing, league tables, a narrowed and increasingly outmoded curriculum, and covert selection combine to create a deeply divided school system in which inequalities are grotesquely wide. The campaign for a genuine comprehensive school system remains as important, and as urgent, as ever.

FORUM has always understood that a genuinely comprehensive education system is not simply about ending selection at eleven and doing away with any means by which selective educational practices are overtly enacted. Comprehensive education is also a question of what happens within schools. What pedagogic practices are required to make the comprehensive experience a reality for all students? How might the curriculum be put together and organised to reflect comprehensive principles? In what ways can assessment better enable learning? A focus on the work of teachers in the classroom has always been a central concern of the journal.

FORUM was co-founded in 1958 by the educational historian Professor Brian Simon as a space to discuss and advance the comprehensive cause. Brian was adamant that the battle for comprehensive education would never be won definitively because comprehensivism challenged inequalities and the role of education in reproducing privilege. He argued it was essential to keep making the case for comprehensive reform, advancing where possible and defending when necessary. This is the role FORUM continues to fulfil today, in a context when the need for a radical comprehensive vision for the future of education has never been more necessary. The relaunch of the journal with Lawrence and Wishart marks an important new phase in that work.

FORUM has been published by Symposium journals for many years and we are enormously grateful to Symposium’s Roger Osborn-King for his support for the journal. However, Roger’s retirement from journal publishing opens up a new opportunity for FORUM to work with Lawrence Wishart. Lawrence Wishart are well known as the publishers of much of Brian Simon’s work, including his extraordinary four-volume history of English education, and for FORUM the move to LW feels like a spiritual homecoming. Moreover, Lawrence Wishart’s recently enhanced web presence opens up new opportunities for FORUM as we seek to expand our activities in the digital space and to ensure our campaigning profile is both visible and accessible.

Lawrence Wishart is launching FORUM with a very competitive annual subscription of £25 for three issues of the journal in both print and online formats (£20 for online only subscription). We invite you to subscribe. A subscription gives access to some of the most engaging thinking about current educational issues and to a wealth of material in the online archive. And it makes a practical contribution to maintaining and expanding the journal as FORUM continues to advocate and agitate for an education system that is public, democratic and comprehensive.

— Howard Stevenson (Chair of Forum editorial board)

You can watch a video of Howard discussing FORUM and the vital work and research the journal does below.