Educational Policy & Inequality

HideShow resource information

Educational Policy in Britain before 1988

Industrialisation increased need for an educated WF

State began to become more involved in education

State made school compulsory from 5 to 13 1880

Type of education children received was determined by their class background

Schooling did little to change children's ascribed status

MC pupils = given an academic curriculum to prepare them for their careers in professions or office work

WC pupils were given a schooling to equip them with basic numeracy & literacy skills needed for routine factory work

Instil in them an obedient attitude to their superiors

1 of 17

Selection: Tripartite System

Education began to be influenced by idea of meritocracy

  • Individuals should achieve their status through their own individual efforts & abilities rather than being ascribed at birth
  • 1944 Education Act brought TS
  • Children were to be selected & allocated to one of three different types of secondary schools according to aptitudes & abilities
  • Through 11+ exam
  • Grammar schools = offered academic curriculum & access to non-manual jobs & higher education
  • Academic ability who passed 11+ exam
  • Mainly MC pupils
  • Secondary Modern = offered an non-academic curriculum & access to manual work
  • Those who failed 11+ exam
  • Mainly WC pupils
2 of 17

The Comprehensive System

  • Aimed to overcome class divide of TS 
  • All pupils would attend 
  • 11+ exam was abolished along with grammars & SM 
  • Left to local education authority to decide whetther to 'go comprehensive' not all did 
  • Therefore grammar secondary modern divide still exists today 
  • Functionalists = promotes integration by bringing children of different social classes together 
  • Marxists = not meritocratic & reproduces class inequality from 1 gen to the next 
  • Through streaming & labelling 
  • Continues to deny WC children an equal opportunity 
3 of 17


  • Process of introducing market forces of consumer choice & competition between suppliers into areas run by the state 
  • Has created an education market 
  • - Reducing direct state control over education 
  • - Increasing both competition between schools & parental choice 
  • Neo-liberals & NR favour marketisation 
  • Argue marketisation means schools have to attract customers by competing with schools 
4 of 17


  • Policies have been introduced to promote marketisation 
  • Publication of League Tables & Ofsted Inspection Reports which gives parents info they need to choose the right school 
  • Opemn enrolement = allowing successful schools to recruit more pupils 
  • Specialist schools = widen parental choice 
  • Formula funding = schools receive same amount of funding for each pupil 
  • Introduction of tuittion fees for higher education 
  • Allowing schools to opt out of local authority control e.g. to become academies 
5 of 17

Reproduction of Inequality

  • Marketisation reproduces inequality 
  • Ball (1994) & Whitty (1998) 
  • Marketisation policies such as exam league tables & formula funding 
  • Reproduces class inequality by creating inequalities between schools 
6 of 17

League Tables & Cream-Skimming

  • Policy of publishing league tables ensures schools that achieve good results are in demand 
  • Parents are attracted to those with good rankings
  • Bartlett (1993)
  • Encourages cream skimming - good schools can be more selective & choose their own customers (mainly MC) 
  • These pupils will gain an advantage 
  • Silt-shifting - good schools can avoid taking less able pupils 
  • They are likely to get poor results 
  • Damage the school's league table position 

-  Schools with poor league table results = cannot afford to be selective & have to take less able wc pupils 

- Results are lower & remain unnattractive to MC 

- Overall effect of league tables is to produce unequal schools & reproduce social class inequalities

7 of 17

Funding Formula

  • Schools are allocated funds by a formula based on how many pupils they attract 
  • Popular schools get more funds & can afford better qualified teachers & facilities 
  • Popularity allows schools to be more selective 
  • Popular schools can thrive 
  • Unpopular schools lose income & it is difficult to match their rivals 
  • Funding will be further reduced 
  • Britain produces more segregation between children of different social backgrounds 
  • Institute for Public Policy Research (2012)
8 of 17

Gerwitz: Parental Choice

  • Increasing parental choice advantages MCP 
  • Economic & Cultural capital puts them in a better position to choose good schools for their children 
  • Study of 14 London secondary schools 
  • Differences in parents' economic & cultural capital lead to class differences in how they can exercise choice of secondary school
  • Privileged-skilled choosers 
  • - Mainly professional MC parents 
  • - Used economic & cultural to gain educational capital for their children 
  • - Had time to visit schools & skills to research options available 
  • Disconnected-Local Choosers 
  • - WCP whose choices were restricted by lack of economic & cultural capital 
  • - Found it difficult to understand school admissions etc 
  • - Less confident in dealings with the school 
  • Semi-Skilled Choosers 
  • - WC but ambitious for their children 
  • - Lacked cultural capital & difficult to make sense of education market 
9 of 17

Myth of Parentocracy

  • Marketisation reproduces inequality by concealing its true cause & by justifying its existence
  • Ball believes marketisation gives the appearance of parentocracy
  • Education system seems to be based on parents having free choice of school
  • Parentocracy = a myth
  • Parents do not have the same freedom to choose which school to send their children
  • Gerwitz shows MCP are able to take advantage of choices available
  • Leech & Campos show how they can afford to move into a catchment areas of desirable school
  • Disguising fact schooling continues to reproduce class inequality
  • Myth of parentocracy makes inequality ineducation seem fair & inevitable
10 of 17

New Labour & Inequality

New Labour govs 1997-2010 introduced various policies aimed at reducing inequality

  • Education Action Zones = provided deprived areas with additional resources
  • Aim Higher Programme = raise aspirationsof groups who are under-represented in higher education
  • Education Maintenance Allowance (EMA'S) - payment to students from low income families to encourage them to stay on after 16
  • Increased funding for state education
  • City academies were created to give a fresh start to struggling inner-city schools
  • Critics see a contradiction between Labour's policies to tackle inequality & committment to marketisation (Benn 2012)
  • New Labour Paradox
  • Despite introducing EMAs Labour also introduced fees for higher education
11 of 17

Coalition Government (2010-2015) Policies

  • Academies = given control over their curriculum & encouraged to leave local authority control
  • Free schools = Funded by the state but run by the parents, teachers businesses etc
  • Takes control away from the state & gave power to parents
  • Allen (2010) - Only benefit children from highly educated families

Fragmented Centralisation

  • Ball (2011) - increased fragmentation & centralisation from promoting academies & free schools
  • - Fragementation = Comprehensive system is replaced by diverse provision much of it involving private providers
  • - Centralisation of control = central gov has power to allow schools to become academies or free schools
  • - Rapid growth has reduced role of elected local authorities in education
12 of 17

Coalition Policies & Inequality

  • Marketisation policies are said to increase inequality
  • Introduced policies to reduce it
  • FSM
  • Pupil Premium
  • Pupil premium is said not be spent on those it is supposed to help
  • Part of coalition gov's austerity programme - spending on mnay areas of education has been cut
  • Spending on school buildings was cut by 60%
  • Critics argue that cutting Sure Start & EMA's has reduced opportunites for WCP
13 of 17

Privatisation of Education

Privatisation & the Globalisation of Education Policy

  • UK's four leading educational software companies are all owned by global multinationals Disney etc
  • Many contracts for educational services in the UK are sold on by original company to banks etc
  • Globalised world = bought by overseas companies
  • Often private companies are exporting UK educational policy to other countries
  • Nation states are becoming less important in policymaking which is shifting to a policy level that is often privatised
14 of 17

The Cola-isation of Schools

  • Penetrating education indirectly
  • Through vending machines on school premises & development of brand loyalty throough displays of logos & sponsorship
  • Process = cola-isation
  • Molnar(2005) = schools are targeted by private companies & confer legitmacy on anything associated with them
  • They are a kind of product endorsement
  • Cadbury's sports equipment promotionwas scrapped after children had to eat 5,440 bars of chocolate just to qualify for a pair of volleyball posts
15 of 17

Education as a Commodity

  • Privatisation is becoming the key factor in educational policy
  • Policy = increasingly focused on moving educational services out of public sector to private sector
  • Education is turning into 'legitimate object of private profit-making'
  • Privatisation means state is losing its role as provider of educational services
  • Marxists = Hall (2011) = see Coalition gov policies as part of long march of neoliberal revolution
  • Free schools are an example of handing over public services to private capitalists such as educational businesses
16 of 17

Policies of Gender & Ethnicity




  • Assimilation = minority ethnic groups to assimilate into British culture
  • Way to raise achievement
  • Critica argue those minority groups who already speak English & real cause is poverty or racism
  • MCE = policies through 1980s & 1990s aimed topromote achievements of children from ethnic backgrounds by valuing their culture in school curriculum
  • However Stone (1981) argues black pupils do not fail for lack of selfesteem so MCE is misguided
  • - Critical race theorists argue MCE picks out stereotypical features of minority cultures
  • - NR criticise MCE for perpetuating cultural divisions
  • Education should promote a shared national culture & identity which minorites should be assimilated
17 of 17


No comments have yet been made

Similar Sociology resources:

See all Sociology resources »See all Education resources »