ED4a - Education Policies: Raising Standards
This section will explore policies introduced to raise standards in education, examining the policies of the Conservative Party from 1979 to 1997, as well as more recent policies. It will look at how the policies aim to improve the education system and will identify three key areas: privatisation in education, privatisation of education, and quality control policies.
Privatisation in Education
Privatisation in education refers to the idea of changing the internal processes of the education system to mirror a business model. This can involve making the system more efficient and effective. One way this has been achieved is by introducing an external inspectorate of schools, known as Ofsted. This can be considered both privatisation of education and quality control. Ofsted provides a neutral agency that assesses schools on their performance, data, and curriculum. It can, however, be argued that schools may change their methods to meet Ofsted requirements rather than what is best for their students.
Privatisation of Education
Privatisation of education refers to bringing private businesses into schools to support their daily running. This can include catering, finance, teacher training, and external agencies to deliver parts of the curriculum. Again, this approach could be seen as a way of improving the efficiency and effectiveness of the education system.
Quality Control Policies
Quality control policies aim to ensure that all schools provide the best possible education for their students. These policies are introduced to ensure that schools are fulfilling their roles in teaching students, covering the curriculum, and providing the best education possible. This is typically the role of the Department for Education (DfE) and government.
Conservative Policies 1979 - 1997
In the late 1970s and early 1980s, the UK government, led by the Conservatives, made some significant changes to the education system. One of the most important was the Education Reform Act of 1988. This introduced several policies and changes to what teachers were doing in the classroom. One of the most significant was the creation of Ofsted, which is an agency that goes into schools to ensure that they are providing the best education possible. However, some people argue that Ofsted is no longer fit for purpose, as schools may change what they do simply to satisfy Ofsted's requirements, rather than doing what is best for their students. The government also introduced the national curriculum, which sets out what subjects and topics schools must cover at each stage of a child's education. This was intended to ensure quality control in education and to provide a minimum standard of education across the country.
National testing was also introduced as part of the Education Reform Act. This involved end-of-key-stage tests, also known as SATs, for students in Year 6 and Year 9. The tests were used as a way for the government to monitor the performance of schools, rather than the individual performance of students. While SATs are still taken by Year 6 students, the Year 9 tests have been discontinued. Some people believe that SATs are no longer effective, and are calling for them to be scrapped, as they don't accurately measure individual student progress, and are no longer necessary for secondary schools, which now do their own baseline testing in Year 7.
Overall, the changes introduced by the Conservatives in the 1980s were intended to ensure quality control in education and to provide a minimum standard of education across the country. However, there are concerns that some of these policies, such as Ofsted and national testing, may be outdated and no longer fit for purpose. Nonetheless, the national curriculum remains an important part of the education system, as it ensures that all students are given the opportunity to learn important subjects and topics, regardless of which school they attend.
New Labour 1997 - 2010
The New Labour government introduced policies to raise standards and improve the quality of education. These policies were successful in some respects, but they have since been abandoned by the Conservative government. The policies were aimed at reducing class sizes, improving school facilities, providing additional funding for deprived areas, and obtaining additional funding from external companies. Although the policies were successful in some respects, they were expensive and not sustainable in the long term. It remains to be seen what new policies will be introduced to raise standards and improve the quality of education in the future.
Maximum Class Sizes
The New Labour government introduced maximum class sizes to decrease the ratio of students to teachers, which would enable teachers to provide more individualised learning and improve standards. The policy was successful in reducing class sizes for 5-7 year olds, but it has since been scrapped by the Conservative government. Although health and safety reasons still warrant smaller class sizes in subjects such as practical science, PE and technology, the general policy of maximum class sizes has been abandoned.
Building Schools for the Future
The Building Schools for the Future programme was introduced by the New Labour government to improve school facilities and ensure that roofs didn't leak and heating systems worked. It was also a way to modernise school buildings for more suitable education. The programme was funded by the Department for Education, and schools were given contractors to carry out the building work. The programme was criticised for being expensive and unnecessary, and it has since been scrapped by the Conservative government. Schools now have to find their own contractors and obtain planning permission.
Education Action Zones
The Education Action Zones policy was aimed at raising standards in areas of deprivation where there were high levels of poverty and free school meals. Additional funding was provided to these areas to support learning, with the money being used to employ more teachers and provide more resources. The policy was successful in improving education in some respects, but it was also expensive, and it has since been abandoned.
Business Sponsored Academies
The Business Sponsored Academies policy was introduced by the New Labour government to provide additional funding for state schools from external companies. This additional funding was meant to improve resources and raise standards. The policy was successful in some respects, but it was not a long-term plan. When businesses faced financial hardship, they stopped sponsoring schools, and the schools lost their additional funding.
Coalition Government 2010 - 2015
Michael Gove was the Secretary of State for Education from 2010 to 2014 as part of the Coalition government between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats, and during his tenure, he implemented several significant education reforms. These reforms aimed to raise educational standards, particularly for disadvantaged students, as well as to provide a broader curriculum for students at GCSE level.
One of the reforms introduced by the coalition government was Pupil Premium, a process designed to provide additional funding to schools for students from deprived backgrounds. Students eligible for the Pupil Premium included those who received free school meals, children from military families, those in foster care or going through adoption, or those who were previously looked after. The funding would go to the school to purchase resources for these students, such as textbooks and revision guides, to raise educational standards.
Another reform was the introduction of the English Baccalaureate (EBacc), one of Michael Gove's flagship policies. The EBacc was designed to broaden the curriculum by requiring students to study certain subjects at GCSE, including English, maths, a science (including PE at GCSE level), computer science, a humanities subject, a language, and three other subjects. However, the EBacc did not include any arts or technology subjects, which narrowed the curriculum, despite the aim of providing a broader curriculum. The grading system was also reformed, from A to G to 1 to 9, with grade 9 being reserved for the top 10% of the country.
Examination Structure Reform
The examination structure was reformed to make it more rigorous and difficult, as Gove argued that it was too easy and easy to manipulate. Prior to the reform, students took modular exams, with some modules taken at the end of year 10 and the rest at the end of year 11. This allowed students to reset exams, which was disadvantageous for working-class students who could not afford to do so. Gove replaced this with linear exams, with students only taking GCSEs at the end of year 11 and A levels at the end of year 13. A separate one-year course was introduced for A-levels. The purpose was to make exams more rigorous and to stop gaming of the system.
National Curriculum Reform
The national curriculum was reformed to give schools more opportunities to shape the curriculum to the needs of their students. The prescriptive nature of the curriculum was reviewed, but still included certain baseline requirements. This reform aimed to raise educational standards overall by providing tailored education to students that best fit their context.
Overall, Michael Gove's education reforms aimed to raise educational standards and to provide a broader curriculum to students, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds. Although some of these reforms were effective in achieving their goals, others faced criticism, such as the narrowing of the curriculum under the EBacc, or the difficulty level of the new examination structure. Nevertheless, these reforms represent an important chapter in the history of UK education, and their impact is still felt today.
Conservative Government 2015 - to present
Since 2015, conservative governance has led to some significant changes in education policy in the UK. This has resulted in various reforms being implemented that aim to improve education standards across the country. However, there are differing opinions on whether these policies have been effective or not. This article will examine the key policies that have been introduced and discuss their potential impact on education.
Independent Schools Sponsored Academies
One of the policies introduced was the Independent Schools Sponsored Academies. Private schools provided additional funding, resources, training and facilities to academies to support their students. This was seen as a way of independent schools giving back to the community. The academies benefited from the use of sporting facilities and access to teachers to provide opportunities for students that they may not have had otherwise. This policy can be seen as a form of privatisation of education, as independent schools are private enterprises. However, it also provides opportunities for students to access better facilities and resources and raises education standards.
Expansion of Grammar School Programme
The grammar school programme has been expanded, with more grammar schools becoming available for students to attend. These schools are seen as providing a more academic education and are aimed at more able students. While the 11 Plus is no longer mandatory, students who wish to attend a grammar school must still take the test. This policy has been criticised for creating a two-tier education system and limiting opportunities for those who may not have done well in the 11 Plus.
Reformation of Ofsted Ofsted has been reformed to focus more on the curriculum rather than data. The three I’s – intent, implementation and impact – have been introduced to evaluate the effectiveness of schools’ curriculums. This policy aims to ensure that schools are providing the best education possible by focusing on the quality of teaching and learning. By requiring schools to reflect on their teaching and learning, it encourages them to improve their standards.
The Conservative government’s policies since 2015 aim to improve education standards in the UK. The Independent Schools Sponsored Academies and expansion of the grammar school programme aim to provide students with better opportunities and access to academic education. The reformation of Ofsted focuses on improving the quality of teaching and learning, encouraging schools to reflect on their teaching practices. However, these policies have been criticised for creating a two-tier education system and limiting opportunities for students. It remains to be seen whether these policies will be effective in improving education standards in the long term.