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How this came about is the subject of Clyde Chitty's new book. Summary In his introductory chapter, Chitty acknowledges that 'doubts and misgivings He justifies writing the book, however, on the basis that 'the writing of all history is as much about explanation as it is about judgment' p. In Chapter 2 he begins his explanation with an outline of the origins and history of the three main political parties in England Conservative, Labour and Liberal , because 'only by understanding the nature of their development since the middle of the nineteenth century is it possible to appreciate the principles underpinning their evolving attitudes toward state education - and particularly at the secondary level' p.

He examines 'the extent to which these parties either differed or agreed on major issues of social policy, including education' and asks, 'in which decades, and for what reasons, was either consensus or conflict the dominant feature of the political debate? He notes that the Education Act, part of the 'post-war settlement', was regarded by all parties as a cornerstone of the welfare state. The administrative framework of 'a national system, locally administered' was 'a source of much pride', involving as it did 'the continuing operation of a benign partnership between central government, local government, and individual schools and colleges' p.

This post-war consensus finally broke down with the economic recession of the mids, when the Conservative leadership 'began to embrace a new updated version of the classical market liberalism of the nineteenth century' p.

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The Thatcher government's Education Reform Act marked 'the abandonment of the essential principles that had governed the organisation of schools since '. Henceforth, education would become 'a commodity to be purchased and consumed' p. He argues that a new period of consensus began with Tony Blair's election as Labour leader in - but this one was 'largely on the Right's terms' and involved the rejection of most of the principles which had underpinned the 'welfare capitalist consensus' of the post-war years p.

In Chapter 3 he reviews the education policy of the Labour Party between and , which he describes as a period of 'missed opportunities and uneasy compromises' p. Ever since its formation, the party had been unable to agree what it meant by 'secondary education for all', and had been ambivalent in its attitude to comprehensive education. The notion of differentiated schooling persisted after the second world war, with Ellen Wilkinson, the first Labour minister of education, unwilling to challenge the 'existing orthodoxy' p.

Later in the s policy documents adopted a more positive approach to comprehensive education, but 'there was still ambiguity in Labour thinking as to the likely fate of grammar schools' p. By , when the Labour Party was returned to power with a very slim majority, there was 'widespread popular disenchantment with the divided system of secondary schools' and local authorities were already beginning to experiment with comprehensive schools. The Labour government decided to make comprehensivisation a national policy, but it was not being 'radical' or 'revolutionary': it was simply 'responding to, or taking account of, local initiatives of a widespread nature' p.

In his Ruskin College speech in October , Jim Callaghan attempted to 'wrest the populist mantle' from Margaret Thatcher's Tories, and to 'pander to perceived public disquiet at the alleged decline in educational standards in state schools' p. Between and , the party was forced to react to the radical education policies being pursued by the Thatcher and Major administrations.

Its problem was that 'it could not be seen to be against choice and diversity', even though it was well aware of 'the basic inequalities that Conservative policy produced' p.

Secondary Education in a Changing World

In Chapter 4, Chitty seeks to explain the origins of New Labour's educational philosophy. Tony Blair's election as leader - and his adoption of Andrew Adonis as one of his closest advisers - ensured that the party's earlier albeit half-hearted policy of introducing a nationwide system of comprehensive secondary schools would now be reconsidered.

He quotes both men: Blair's description of comprehensive schools as 'non-selective and frequently non-excellent, and, on occasions, truly dire' p. At Blair's first party conference, shadow education secretary Ann Taylor, who supported comprehensive schools, received no backing from the leadership and was soon replaced by David Blunkett, 'who was quite prepared to rethink Labour's education policy' p. This was most obvious in relation to selection, where 'No selection' became 'No more selection' It is easy to conclude that under Tony Blair the Labour party jettisoned its previous commitment to comprehensive education, choosing instead to focus on 'standards, not structures' p.

However, because the party had never been clear about what it meant by 'secondary education for all', it is, Chitty suggests, 'difficult to claim that Blair and his allies were reversing a policy that had the unequivocal support of all the leading figures in the party' p. In Chapter 5, Chitty charts the steady abandonment of the comprehensive ideal during Tony Blair's decade as prime minister.

The Labour manifesto made it clear that there would be no return to the plus, but it also rejected 'the monolithic comprehensive schools that take no account of children's differing abilities'. Instead, New Labour preferred schools which identified 'the distinct abilities of individual pupils', and organised them in 'streamed or setted classes' which were designed to 'maximise their progress in individual subjects' p.

The white paper Excellence in Schools repeatedly asserted that 'standards matter more than structures', so it seems 'somewhat ironic', says Chitty, that the Education Act was, in fact, 'chiefly concerned with structure' - 89 of the sections were devoted to 'the new categories of state maintained schools, their establishment, financing, admissions, and selection arrangements' p.

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Comprehensive schools were not mentioned. Chitty notes that by the time David Blunkett left office in June , 'there was a hierarchy of at least 16 types of secondary schools, each with its own legal status and unique admission procedures' p. In Blair's second term there were more specialist schools, advanced specialist schools, a thousand 'Beacon Schools' and more faith schools. In , Blunkett's successor, Estelle Morris, angered many in the teaching profession with her comment that there were some comprehensive schools she 'simply wouldn't touch with a bargepole' p. This declared that the key feature of the government's 'new and modernised' education system would be 'personalisation'.

But the Strategy's 'most controversial and far-reaching' proposal was the creation of a network of 'independent specialist schools' to replace 'traditional comprehensives' p. Ruth Kelly succeeded Clarke as education secretary, so it was she who had to pilot the Education and Inspections Bill through the Commons. She did not find it easy. The bill's proposals 'served to alienate a large body of opinion within the Labour Party, both inside and outside parliament' and Kelly 'found it difficult to mount a coherent defence of the government's broad agenda' p.

In the event, the government made three minor concessions and got its bill - 'but only with the support of the Conservative opposition' p. Summing up the education initiatives of the Blair years, Chitty notes that 'a number of key phrases and slogans' tended to recur: there was a need to concentrate on standards, not structures; to promote 'choice and diversity' at the secondary level; to reject the idea of the 'one-size-fits-all' comprehensive; and to move on to a 'post-comprehensive era'. He argues that Blair's 'third way' was a vague concept which seemed to require the creation of many new types of secondary school, to 'attract the support of the middle and aspirant classes'.

For New Labour's critics, this rigid hierarchy of schools 'served chiefly to undermine the Blairite rhetoric of "equality of opportunity", and to sharpen divisions and insecurities' p. Having given us a chronological account of the history, in the next two chapters Chitty examines two issues which have dominated educational politics during the past thirty years.

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Chapter 6 deals with the privatisation of education; Chapter 7 with the erosion of the National Curriculum, particularly as it relates to secondary education. He begins by noting that there are several forms of privatisation.

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Drawing on the work of Stephen Ball and Richard Pring, he outlines some of them: private and not-for-profit companies, and voluntary, community and non-governmental organisations 'in all manner of income-generating activities within the public sector, especially within health and education' p. He argues that the privatisation of education in the s marked 'the systematic erosion, and possibly even abandonment, of the commitment to a common educational service, based on pupil needs rather than upon private means, and accessible to all young people on the basis of equal opportunity' p.

He traces the course of Tory attempts at privatisation from Keith Joseph's desire to introduce education vouchers thwarted , through Kenneth Baker's City Technology Colleges lack of sponsors , to the introduction of Ofsted whose inspectors were not seen as 'allies in the process of improving schools' p. He goes on to consider how Tony Blair responded to the liberalising and privatising agenda of Thatcher and Major, especially with regard to social policy. He argues that 'the precise positioning of Blair's political philosophy is open to debate' and that there were 'both significant continuities and significant ruptures between Thatcherism and Blairism' p.

Smith , Harold L. Young was not quite the first to use the word in print, but it may still have originated with him: David Kynaston, Modernity Britain: Opening the Box, —59 , Although there was less bias against working-class children in admission to Catholic grammar schools, there were also fewer places, and rank-and-file Catholic criticism of grammar schools was thus particularly acute: McKibbin, Classes and Cultures , n.

Simon, Education and the Social Order , , tells this story but unfortunately misattributes it to a Tory minister, Lord Newton. These were all positions remarkably similar to those enunciated by Tony Crosland, The Future of Socialism , — Historical, Contemporary, and Comparative Perspectives , ed. Franklin , Barry M. The Gloucester result was complicated by a tortuous set of questions, which made it possible for majorities to be counted for both comprehensives and grammar schools.

In the s, both Left and Right were predicting the return of selection; though this did not happen, subsequent analyses from the Left have tried to demonstrate that it did see below, pp. Even the more temperate Kerckhoff et al. Hills and Glennerster, 29— Dominic Sandbrook, Seasons in the Sun: The Battle for Britain, — , —, which argues more anecdotally for a much sharper turn on the part of all classes back towards grammar schools.

Chitty seems to be in favour of a common exam at 16 and a national curriculum, in principle but not in practice. I will have more to say on the subject of the history curriculum in my fourth address. Cox and A. Dyson, The Black Papers on Education , 9, 26—9. In the pro-selection camp were Angus Maude, two psychologists who believed in the heritability of intelligence Cyril Burt and Richard Lynn and Tibor Szamuely; in the anti-selection camp, at least at first, were Rhodes Boyson and the prime movers of the Black Papers, Cox and Dyson.

Blair himself was a secret admirer of selection, but he knew better than to say so in public.

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Alastair Campbell with Bill Hagerty , , Goldstein , Harvey and Heath , Anthony Oxford , , I am grateful to Gill Sutherland for this reference. Both Right and Left — e.

Patricia Broadfoot , —44 — treat differentiation and selection as nearly synonymous. The principle of open access remains. See Arnott , Margaret A. Education was less of an issue in the and elections. The State of Welfare , ed. Hills and Glennerster, 66, sceptical about specialism as a factor in either choice or standards. Echoing the work of early American psychologists from years ago, Hernstein and Murray based their conclusions on an analysis of standardised test scores. Despite the substantive, critical responses rejecting the arguments put forth in The Bell Curve see, e.

The ghosts of eugenicists and the standardised intelligence test-makers from the early 20th century still haunt us via the very racialised and class-disparate outcomes of the modern day, high-stakes, standardised testing movement. Further, that the analyses of Hernstein and Murray , rushton and Jensen , and Barrow and rouse are taken seriously in contemporary public debates clearly illustrates the ideological and historical grounding of U.

As noted above, based upon the presumed objectivity of the tests, psychologists, philanthropists, and educators saw the tests as a way to accurately sort students based on measured ability which conlated with ethnicity, race, and class , and thus served ideologically to justify existing socio- economic inequalities. Problems like racism and class privilege are thus supposedly ameliorated through testing. This characterisation of standardised testing then and high-stakes, standardised testing now as a means of challenging inequality is rooted in the ideal that the United States operates as a meritocracy.


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However, the idea of individuals freely competing based on their own merit to achieve in the realm of education has not been born out by the reality of standardised testing. As Berliner explains, test scores in the U. Socio-economic factors simply have an overwhelming effect on educational achievement, and this reality is effectively masked by the ideology of meritocracy embedded in high-stakes testing in the United States. The meritocratic assumptions of high-stakes testing in the U. While this might sound good to many myself included , there is a long history of elite groups resisting U.

Technically speaking, the statistical logic of standardised tests requires some students to fail Popham, Further, if everyone passed a standardised test or in the language of the U. These ideological and technical points are particularly important when it comes to understanding how high-stakes testing its into the discourse of race and class issues in the education reform movement in the United States, a movement which explicitly seeks to close racial and economic achievement gaps in high-stakes testing scores. One of the great ironies about this discourse is that closing the achievement gap does not mean having everyone be successful on high-stakes tests.

Rather, closing the achievement gap actually means having proportional rates of failure and success amongst different groups. If education in the U. If high-stakes tests are the sole measure of equality in educational achievement, then at best we in the U.