Fifteen months ago the Esmé Fairbairn Foundation announced that it was funding the first independent review of primary education in England since the ill-fated inquiry presided over by Lady Plowden in 1967. That investigation led to a widespread, chilling decline in standards that have scarred successive generations of pupils. I had hoped that the new inquiry, chaired by Professor Robin Alexander, of Cambridge University, would avoid the obsession with reform for reform’s sake that had so comprehensively undermined the Plowden review. Now, with the recent publication of its latest batch of reports, I am not so sure. The report which caught my eye is entitled Aims for Primary Education: the changing national context, co-authored by two London University academics, Stephen Machin and Sandra McNally. It makes a ritualistic bow to acknowledge that one of the aims – I would have thought an overriding aim – of primary education is to inculcate a basic proficiency in literacy and numeracy.