Education: Policy and inequality.

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Educational policy and inequality:

  • Educational policy = plans and strategies for education introduced by the Govt through Parliament via recommendations to local schools, e.g. The '2010 Acedemies act' made it possible for state schools to become academies.
  • Policy responds to Equal opportunities to see if they are fair to all, selection and choice if parents are able to choose, control of education on who decides what is taught, and marketisation and privatisation whether schools should be like businesses.


  • 18th/19th C = no state schools as state wasn't involved, education available to minority.
  • 19th C = Industrialisation needed educated workforce, state became more involved in education.
  • But education depended on ascribed status, if M/C they were given an academic curriculum, if W/C they were prepared for factory work.
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Education policy before 1988:


  • 1944, Education = influenced via meritocracy, status can be achieved.
  • '1944 Education Act' = Triprartite system, child was put in 1 of the 3 schools according to ability via a 11+ exam.
    • Grammar school - Academic, non-manual, those who passed 11+ exam, mainly M/C.
    • Secondary modern school - Non-academic, manual, failed 11+ exam, mainly W/C.
  • Tripart system = reproduced inequality, put 2 classes into 2 groups with different opportunities.
  • Exam = early age, legitimated ideology of ability is inborn.


  • Introduced in 1965, tried to stop class division via more meritocratic.
  • 11+ exam, grammars and secondary moderns = abolished, replaced by comprehensive school which all pupil would attend.
  • This = a choice for educational local authority, some rejected and kept this school division.
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Education policy before 1988:


  • Functionalists.
  • Comprehensive school = social integration by bringing children of all classes together.
  • But W/C and M/C still didn't mix via streaming.
  • Comprehensive school = meritocratic, allows more time for pupils to show abilities unlike the 11+ exam.


  • Marixts.
  • Not meritocratic, reproduce inequality from one generation to the next  via labelling and streaming.
  • Comprehensive schools looks like they provide equal chances, but myth of meritocracy justifiess inequality by blaming unachievement on the individual, not the system.
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  • Marketisation = process of introducing market forces of consumer choice and competition between suppliers into areas run by the state, e.g. education.
  • Marketisation = created an education market by...
    • Reducing direct state control over education.
    • More competition between schools and parental choice schools.
  • '1988 Education reform act' made marketisation more of a central theme in govs educational policy.
  • 1997, New labour = similar approaches, more standards, diversity and choice.
  • 2010, coalition took it furthur by creating academies and free schools.


  • Policies that promote marketisation include:
  • Publishing league tables and OFSTED reports which rank schools so parents can choose at best.
  • Busniness sponsors of schools, formula funding so schools are funded equally for pupils.
  • Allowing schools to not be under local authority (academies).
  • Schools compete to attract pupils.
  • Tuition fees for higher education.
  • Allow parents to set up free schools.
  • Miriam David - Power goes from teachers and schools to the parents, for diversity, choice and higher standards.
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  • Despite benefits, Marketisation increases inequality.
  • Stephen Ball and Whitty - Exam league tables and funding formula reproduce class inequality and unequal schools.


  • League tables will show schools with good results are more in demand as parents will be attracted to it.
  • Barlett - This encourages...
    • Cream-skimming - Good schools can be more selective, choose own customers and recruit high achievers mainly middle class and are advataged.
    • Silt-shifting - Good schools can avoid less able students with poor results and harm the schools league table.
  • School who are poor can't afford being selective and have to take less able W/C pupils whos results are poorer, unattracting to M/C parents.
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  • Schools given funds via a formula fund based on  how many pupils they attract.
  • This = popular schools get funds and can get better qualified teachers, allows more selection and attracts M/C pupils.
  • But, unpopular schools lose income and can't face successful school's teachers/facilities and so fail to attract pupils, losing more income.


  • Marketisation benefit M/C via inequalities in schools.
  • More parental choice = attracts M/C parents as they have cultural, economic and educational capital.
  • Study showed difference in these capitals led to class differences in how they use their choice of secondary school. She found 3 main types of parents.
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    • Priveliged-skilled choosers - M/C, used economic and cultural for educational capital for children. Fully educated, took advantage of choices open to them. Had Cultural capital, knew how school admissions work and economic capital by allowing their child to travel to better school and covering the costs.
    • Disconnected-local choosers - W/C, lacked any capital. Didn't understand school admissions, less aware of choices, looked at safety and facilities rather than league tables. Cost of travel restricted their choices. 
    • Semi-skilled choosers - W/C, unliked the above as they wanted best for their child, lacked cultural capital and found education market hard to make sense, relied on peoples opinions of schools, fustrated over not getting child into preffered school.
  • Overall this shows how M/C have a better capital and more choice thant W/C.
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  • Marketisation reproduces inequality, legitimates it my hiding it's true causes.
  • Ball believes marketisation gives appearance of parentocracy, seems as though education = based of parents having free choice.
  • Ball says parentocracy is a myth, makes it looks all parents have equal choice and freedom in deciding which schools to send your child to.
  • Makes education appear fair.
  • Gewirtz shows how M/C are better advantaged and Leech and Compos show how they can afford into the Catchment areas for better schools.


  • New Labour put in policies to try and reduce inequality.
    • Designating deprived aeas as Education action zones to give them more resources.
    • Aim Higher programme to help those underepresented.
    • Education Maintenance Allowances (EMA), pays students with low income backgrounds and encourage higher education.
    • City academies to give struggling inner city schools a new start.
    • More funding in state education.
  • Benn says this = New Labour Paradox, they want to reduce inequality but have a market.
  • E.g. EMA allowances encourage higher education, Labour have fees for uni which may deter them
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Coalition policies from 2010.

  • Moved away from comprehensive schools run by local authorities.
  • Want to reduce role of the state in provision of education via marketisation and privatisation.
  • More free schools and academies to free schools from state control.
  • More cuts to education budget.


  • 2010, all schools told to leave local authority and become academies.
  • Funding was taken from local authorities budgets and given to the academies by central govt.
  • Academies were given control over their curriculum.
  • 2012, half of all secondary schools = academies, some are run by private educational businesses and funded by the state.
  • Labours policy on inner city academies to help disadvantaged schools, the coalition allowed any school to be an academy which removed focus of reducing inequality.
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Coalition policies from 2010.


  • Funded by state, set up and run by parents, teachers or businesses instead of local authority.
  • May improvee standards by taking away state control, powered by parents.
  • Rebecca Allen - 20% Free schools in Sweden only help M/C. 
  • Free schools take few disadvantaged pupils, e.g. 6% = free school meals in Bristol free school.


  • Ball - More academies and free schools lead to fragmentation and centralisation of control.
    • Fragmentation - Comprehensive system = replaced by patchwork of diverse suppliers, many being private providers leading to more unequal chances.
    • Centralisation of control - Central govt alone = power to require schools to = academies/free schools, funds them. Reduces elected local authorities in education.


  • Free school meals - For child in reception.
  • Pupil premium - Money for school for each pupil who is disadvantaged.
  • They've raised tuition, abolised EMA and Sure Start, lessens chances for W/C.
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Privatization of education

  • This = transfer of public assets like school to private companies.
  • Makes education profitable for capitalists as Balls call Education Service Industry.
  • ESI private companies build schoos, provide teachers, OFSTED and run local education authority.
  • Very profitable. 
  • Senior officials of public sector like headteachers leave to join private sector education businesses. 
  • Many private companies are foreign owned, e.g. Edexcel USA. 
  • Cola-isation = Private sector is influencing school indirectly too. E.g. vending machines on school premises and brand logos/sponsors. 


  • Ball - Privatisation is shaping educational policy.
  • Policies are now moving educational services into public sector, controlled by nation state, provided by private companies.
  • Educaton = turned into legitimate object of private profit making, a commodity that's bought and sold.
  • Marxist say privatisation drives up standards is a myth to hide turning education into some sort of profit.
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Privatization of education


  • Education must be marketised. There have been two types.
  • 1: Internal market in state education system.
    • 1988 Education reform act, directed schools to act more like private businesses. E.g. competing for pupils. 
    • School was delivered by the state via local authority.
  • 2: Privatisation of state education.
    • This is where the state isn't the provider of educational services but private companies.
    • State only put the educational services up for contract and decide which bidder wins.
    • Regulates, sets targets, see if private providers meet standards via Ofsted inspections.
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  • 19th C, females were exluded from higher education.
  • In 11+ exam, girls had to achieve higher than boys. 
  • 1970s, GIST has tried to reduce differences in subject choice.


  • Assimilation - 60s and 70s policies wanted to integrate ethincity to british culture to raise achievement. Especially helping those who can't speak english.
  • Multicultural education - Aimed to promote achievements and self esteem for ethnic minorities.
    • Has been criticised for ignoring blacks don't needs self esteem so this is misguided.
    • MCE picks out the stereotype of minorities for inlcusion in the curriculum but fails to tacke racism.
    • New Right say MCE are making cultural division, instead there needs to be national identity and culture for assimulation.
  • Social inclusion - pupils from minority ethnic groups became the focus of policies in 90s. Policies such as...
    • Detailed monitoring of exam results of ethnicities.
    • Race Relation Act to promote racial equality in schools.
    • Have Saturday schools in the black community. 
  • Mirza and Gillborn still see state as ignoring racism, poverty and internal factors.
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