Our research into educational progressivism explores the varied meanings and seeks to expand understanding of progressive education, past and present. It includes case studies and explorations of schools, systems, individuals and networks of influence, considering the meaning of progressivism in education from a variety of standpoints. Drawing from the past to inform the future through focusing on social and educational movements, experience, aspiration, hope and struggle in this essentially contested area of educational ideology. Jane Martin is joint co-editor (with Dr Cathy Burke, University of Cambridge) of Progressive Education: Policy, Politics and Practice – a Routledge book series..
Jane Martin founded the Caroline Benn Society to promote research into the histories of comprehensive education. That work continues to develop notably through a biographically driven project exploring the life and work of public intellectual Caroline Benn (1926-2000) and the creation of the Caroline Benn Digital Archive. This study offers a fresh appraisal of the Comprehensive Education Movement, at a time when a return of selective secondary education is increasingly promoted as a solution to social injustice and lack of upward social mobility. The American-born wife of Tony Benn (1925-2014), one of the most prominent post-war socialists in Europe, Caroline Benn’s own work, often overlooked, is critical to our understanding of the 1970s, a contested period in education and politics, and narrative histories of the post-war period.
A study of Indian influences on progressive education in Britain during the early twentieth century and their subsequent impact. This research, undertaken by Laura Day-Ashley and funded by the British Academy is based on the premise that the existence of the empire opened up channels for a two-way exchange of educational thought and practice, and was primarily concerned with the flow of educational influence from the colonized to colonizer. By concentrating on the connections between educationists and movements in Britain and India in the early twentieth century, the research seeks to gain an understanding of motivations underlying these connections from both sides and the extent to which they were political and/or pedagogical. Additionally, the research also examines how Indian influences arising from these connections were manifested in British educational thought and practice.
Jane Martin is completing a book Gender and Education in England since 1770: a social history. This is the first social history book of its kind commissioned for the Palgrave Gender and History series. Drawing on previously unused and underutilised contemporary sources, oral history interviews, autobiographies and classic sociology of education, novels, and film, it charts continuity and difference in the relation between gender, politics and education, from the perspective of pupils/ students/ teachers/ politicians/ policy-makers/ educator activists.
Personal accounts have been found and used to travel through time to construct histories of education and childhood where no other evidence might exist.
Selected past projects
British Academy/ Leverhulme 2014-16: Caroline DeCamp Benn: a comprehensive life, 1926-2000
Drawing from personal papers and oral histories, this biographically-driven study tracked the story of Caroline Benn and the Comprehensive Education Movement between 1960 and 2000, placing it in the larger social and political context of the time. Benn’s commitment to the comprehensive ideal that all learning and each learner and each learner’s path is of inherently equal value and is treated as such within an educational system, challenging the myth that educational potential is a fixed quantity, was famous in education circles. Using her story as a lens for analysis provides fresh insights into education, politics and policy-making, mapping how women developed influence and the ways they navigated routes through a gendered political environment.