The ongoing debate about standards in education, which is widely held to have been launched in 1976 by James Callaghan, then Prime Minister, in a speech at Ruskin College, Oxford. In the speech, calling for a public debate on education, he drew attention to the need for school‐leavers to possess the appropriate levels of literacy and numeracy required of them by employers. One of the consequences of the Ruskin speech was the publication of the Green Paper Education in Schools: A Consultative Document, which was published later that same year. The eventual introduction of key skills into the post‐16 curriculum is often attributed in part to the concerns raised in the process of the Great Debate.
http://education.guardian.co.uk/thegreatdebate/story/0,,574645,00.html Review of the Great Debate and its developments since 1976.