Education Policy

New Labour Policies

  • New Labour has sought to reduce inequality of achievement while promoting greater diversity, choice and competition.
  • 1997 onwards: Labour introduced several polices aimed at reducing inequality in achievement:
  • education action zones: provide deprived areas with additional resources.
  • aim higher programme: raise aspirations of groups who are under-represented in HE.
  • educational maintenance allowance: students from low-income backgrounds receive payments to encourage them to stay on after 16
  • There was a proposal to raise the leaving age to 18 by 2015 so there was no 16-17yr old neets (those not in education, employment or training'.
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New Labour Policies ***.

  • Labour has also introduced policies to try and help raise achievement and standards more generally.
  • They introduced the National Literacy Strategy, literacy and numeracy hours and they reduced primary school class sizes
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New Labour - promoting diversity and choice

  • To promote diversity and choice New Labour introduced numerous policies:
  • encouraging secondary schools to apply for a specialist school status in particular curriculum areas. This offers greater choice to parents and raises achievement by enabling schools to build on their strengths.
  • There is some evidence that this has raised results: results in specialist schools have outstripped those in non-specialist schools.
  • Labour also promoted academies as a policy for raising achievement. Many of these are former comprehensives with poor results and mainly working class.
  • It is claimed academies will raise their achievements but results have been mixed - in some cases it has worsened achievement.
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Postmodernism and New Labour

  • Labour's policy of promoting diversity and choice can, in part, reflect ideas suggested by postmodernists.
  • Thompson (1992): in a postmodern society schools can break free from the old system where schools were expected to be the same.
  • He argues education can become 'customised' to meet the needs of now diverse communities.
  • For example, the growth of faith schools for different religious groups, specialist schools in technology, languages etc.
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Criticisms of New Labour Policies

  • Whitty (2002): there is a contradication between policies that tackle inequality and its commitment to marketisation e.g. while EMA may encourage working class to stay on, tuition fees of uni's will deter them from going any further. He concludes that labour present a positive image without actually reducing class inequality.
  • Others have pointed to continued existence of selective grammar schools and private schools. Labour has opposition to private schools as middle and upper class privilege but they haven't abolished or removed the charitable status that reduces tax they pay.
  • Trowler (2003): points to policies such as increased funding of state education, raising standards and a focus on 'learning society' as evidence of Labour's commitment to reducing ineqaulities.
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