In 1981, Brian Simon published ‘Why no pedagogy in England?’ (Simon 1981). On 20 May 2003 the UK government unveiled Excellence and Enjoyment: a strategy for primary schools (DfES 2003a).

‘Why no pedagogy?’ is an academic critique that commands attention by force of argument and evidence. Excellence and Enjoyment relies on large print, homely language, images of smiling children, and populist appeals to teachers’ common sense. Substantively, it seeks to secure professional goodwill, and possibly to disarm criticism, by relaxing the pressure of government prescription and targets. But beyond this surface appeal are important statements on learning, teaching, curriculum and assessment, which are arguably the core of that pedagogy whose absence Brian Simon deplored. On these and other matters, Excellence and Enjoyment designates itself not just a Primary National Strategy but also a ‘blueprint for the future’. It therefore provides an appropriate test of how far, a quarter of a century on, Simon’s criticisms remain valid.