Something old, something new: understanding Conservative education policy

Sonia Exley and Stephen J. Ball

in The Conservative Party and social policy

Published by Policy Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9781847424334
Published online March 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447303718 | DOI:
Something old, something new: understanding Conservative education policy

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This chapter discusses the education policy of the Conservative Party. Conservative education policy has been fraught with tensions since the Thatcher era. It is shown that education had been a key factor in Labour's victory in the 1997 general election and one of the policy areas in which the ‘Third Way’ notion of pairing economic competitiveness with social justice was to be pursued. The Conservative vision for education is one where individuals, families, school staff and communities will be given ‘freedom’ to ‘take responsibility’ for the education system. Ideas underpinning policy commitments of the ‘new’ Conservatives in education are supported and reinforced by the existence of a sprawling and highly interconnected policy network. There is a particularly important question to be answered around how educational equality might be reconciled with an attack on bureaucracy and an emphasis on weakly redistributive voluntarism or indeed ‘society not the state’.

Keywords: Conservative education policy; Conservative Party; 1997 general election; Third Way; policy network; education system

Chapter.  7938 words. 

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