Coalition Education Policies: An Assignment

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Click here for PowerPoint Presentation on Coalition Education Policies. March 2016

Before you attempt the assignment here are a few summary points which may help you.

  1. The Coalition Government has outlined a wide range of education policy proposals between 2010-2015. However since these policies have either been in operation for a limited amount of time or remain to be implemented in the future any attempts to assess these policies must necessarily be tentative.
  2. Conservatives have often claimed, not entirely convincingly in my view, that their policies are driven by pragmatism and practicality rather than by ideology and as Education Secretary Michael Gove has certainly claimed that he has aimed to introduce policies which are effective rather than policies driven by ideology. At the same time , however, his opponents have often claimed that many of his policies are driven by a version of New Right ideology although Mr Gove has claimed in turn that his critics are ideologically motivated.
  3. In the exercise which follows you have to assess the extent to which Some of Mr Gove's education policies might be influenced by New Right Ideology {a mixture of Neo-liberalism and Neo Conservatism} and I have therefore included a brief outline of New Right Ideology which may help you.
  4. However it is also the case that several of Mr Gove's policies do seem to be driven by issues of practicality [although even here you might sometimes detect elements of ideology] and in these cases the assignment asks you to outline some of the more practical strengths and weaknesses of particular policies.
  5. Mr Gove often stated his admiration for former Labour Prime Minister Tony Blair and for the education policies of former Labour Education Minister Lord Andrew Adonis and so it would not be surprising to find some similarities [as well as some differences] between previous Labour Government education policies and Coalition education policies.
  6. It has in any case been argued that Labour policies too were to some considerable extent driven by New Right ideology albeit modified slightly by the moderate Third Way version of Social Democracy supported by the Blair -Brown leadership.

This assignment invites you to examine Coalition education policies in terms of their possible ideological basis, their possible practical strengths and weaknesses and their continuity or otherwise with previous Labour Government policies.

I am not assuming that you will be able to answer the questions in the exact spaces provided in the table. However if you are preparing for short answer questions I would imagine that you can prepare an answer on each policy in one or two substantial paragraphs. On the other hand it would certainly be possible to write a very substantial essay on some individual policies: for example on the nature of the Academies Programme.

I have nearly finished writing a set of teaching notes on Coalition Education Policies and this will be available on my site in a couple of weeks hopefully providing some information which will help you with this assignment.

As mentioned you will need familiarity with some aspects of  New Right Ideology to complete the assignment and so here is a brief summary although I am sure that this is a topic which you have already discussed with your teachers.

Also very importantly your teachers may well advise you that for examination purposes it is best to concentrate your attention on a limited number of policies rather than attempt to discuss all of the policies listed here. Which policies do you consider to be most significant?

Thanks to Chris Livesey  []   for some advice : I am responsible for any remaining defects in the document ! 

 The New Right, Neo- Liberalism and Neo-Conservatism: A Checklist

 Dimensions of Neo- Liberalism

  • Support for Individual Freedom
  • Support for the Market Mechanism and the Private Sector
  • Support for Economic Inequality combined with Equality of Opportunity
  • Against Socialism
  • Against the Post-War Consensus
    • Support for lower levels of government spending and lower rates of taxation
    • Support for Monetarist rather than Keynesian methods of macroeconomic management.
    • Support for privatisation as an alternative to nationalisation
    • Support for lower levels of spending on welfare
    • Support for the privatisation of welfare services
    • Support for Private Health care and Private Education
    • Support for "Quasi-Markets in State Health and Education services
    • Supporting the reduction of  local government autonomy


    • Supporting the reduction of  "excessive" trade union power

Dimensions  of Neo-Conservatism

    • Support for Traditional Sources  of Authority
      • Support for the State
      • Support for strong, punitive approaches to law and order
      • Support for "traditional approaches to morality
      • Support for the "traditional family"
      • Support for "traditional" approaches to education
      • Support for "national culture" rather than multi-culturalism
      • A tendency to Euroscepticism



The Assignment

Policies Similarities/ differences relative to Labour Policies. Possible ideological links to Neo-Liberalism
Free Schools
Private Schools
Grammar Schools
Increased HE Tuition Fees
Similarities/differences relative to Labour Policies. Possible ideological links to Neo-Conservatism
Changes to National Curriculum
Discipline, Uniform, House Systems, Prefect Systems
Streaming , Banding , Setting
Similarities/differences relative to Labour Policies. Practical strengths and weaknesses
Changes to Teacher Training
Increased use of Phonics for the Teaching of Reading.
Introduction of EBacc
Proposed introduction of EBacc Certificate. [Policy shelved]
Changes to Curricula and Structure of GCSE courses
Changes to Curricula and Structure of GCE Advanced Level courses
Vocational Education Initiatives
Abolition of EMA and Replacement with Alternative Scheme
Abolition of Aim Higher Scheme
Introduction of Pupil Premium
Proposed New Accountability Measures for Schools

Some Questions for Further Discussion

  1. How might Coalition education policies promote increased educational achievement?
  2. What is the meaning of the term "Meritocracy"? How might Coalition education policies promote meritocracy?
  3. What is the meaning of the term "Compensatory Education"?  How might Coalition education policies promote the aims of Compensatory Education?
  4. Basil Bernstein once stated that "Education cannot compensate for society". Can Coalition education policies compensate for society?
  5. How might Coalition education policies be analysed from the following perspectives?
  • Functionalism.
  • The New Right
  • Social Democracy
  • Marxism
  • Feminism