Coming up: on Saturday 5th November I will be introducing a discussion on my essay The Liberating Power of Education at the Buxton Battle of Ideas. Info and tickets here.

I give short and engaging illustrated talks on the history of education, aimed at both teachers and non-teachers alike. These generally get a great response from teachers in particular, as many of them have never been taught about the history of their own profession.

In 2020 I gave the 4th Annual Education Studies lecture at Derby University on the topic ‘What is liberal education?’. I have presented to audiences including: the researchED national conference, Microsoft’s Education Group, the East London Science School, the Battle of Ideas festival at the Barbican Centre, U3A Ealing, the Academy of Ideas Education Forum, and Discovery Education.

The talks are 30-40 minutes, plus Q&A.

If you would like me to give a talk at your school or organisation, please contact me.

Schools through the ages

This traces a journey from the first grammar school in England, set up by Augustine of Canterbury in the 6th century, to the creation of the state education system in the 19th century.

It explains the profound impact that events such as the Black Death, the Reformation and the Industrial Revolution had on schools.

How could learning Latin save your life? What were the Seven Liberal Arts and what made them ‘liberal’? Why do ‘public schools’ charge fees? How could a Victorian schoolmaster teach a class of a thousand? All these questions and lots more will be answered.

“Harley’s talk was informative and engaging. He is highly knowledgeable and was able to explore the issues, which really developed my understanding of the education system as a current teacher. I would recommend him and his talk highly.”

Tarjinder Gill, Primary school teacher

“A comprehensive and insightful overview of the history of education in Britain. Harley has been researching the subject for many years and he believes that every education student and lecturer should delve into the rich past of education if they are to understand the present. It is an intellectually stimulating talk that everybody with an interest in education will enjoy.”

Dr Ruth Mieschbuehler, Senior Lecturer in Education Studies at the University of Derby

What is a liberal education?

A liberal education was one of the crowning achievement in the history of education – but one that has fallen out of fashion and today is almost forgotten.

This lecture explains what a liberal education was. It will explore why it was seen as radical and what it offered to every child and young person.

Liberal education helped shape social progress but is now at odds with what is called ‘progressive education’. Through understanding what a liberal education was we can make better sense of what is really progressive in education today.

“A fascinating insight into a topic sadly often overlooked by teachers and educationalists. Richardson combines a thorough knowledge of his subject with a lively and accessible style of presentation in such a way that history asks urgent questions of our current educational practices.”

Joanna Williams, director, CIEO

Under development

“The pioneers of education for girls”

“1,000 pupils in a classroom: the rise and fall of the monitorial system”

“Town v gown: the early universities”