ED4b - Marketisation Policies

Marketization policies in education refer to the creation of a marketplace for education, aimed at fostering competition within and between schools. The purpose of marketization policies is to provide schools with greater independence and more choices on how they operate, what they offer, and the type of students they admit. This competition is meant to improve the quality of education provided by schools, as they will need to raise their standards to attract students.

Conservatives 1979 - 1997

One of the key policies that brought marketization to the forefront of education was the introduction of league tables by the Conservative government between 1979 and 1997. League tables are a ranking system that allows schools to compare their performance against other schools in their area or nationally. The ranking system can be based on Ofsted rankings, GCSE scores, A-Level scores, or international PISA rankings. This system creates a sense of competition between schools as they strive to improve their rankings to attract more students.

Another policy aimed at fostering competition in education is the funding formula. This policy determines how school budgets are calculated based on the number of students enrolled in the school. Each school receives a certain amount of money per student per year. Schools must attract students to their school to receive funding, as the more students they have, the more funding they receive. This competition for funding ensures that schools are motivated to improve their standards and attract more students.

The introduction of open enrolment was also a significant policy in promoting parental choice in education. Prior to 1988, parents could only send their children to the local school in their catchment area. Open enrolment allowed parents to apply to any school, even if it was outside of their catchment area, as long as they could get their child there. The local authority determines where students go based on the number of spaces available and the number of applications received. Looked after children get priority in choosing their school, followed by students with siblings in the school, and finally, children living closest to the school.

The purpose of these policies is to create more parental choice, as parents can now choose the type of school and education that they want for their child. However, critics argue that marketization policies have widened the gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students, as more affluent families can afford to move closer to high-performing schools or pay for private education. Marketization policies have also been accused of creating a teaching to the test culture, where schools focus solely on improving their rankings rather than providing a well-rounded education for their students.

New Labour 1997 - 2010

In 1997, New Labour came into power and introduced several changes to the education system in the UK. While they kept the existing elements of the system, such as league tables, funding formulas, open enrolment, and Ofsted, they also introduced specialist schools. Specialist schools were those that had a particular strength in a particular subject, such as PE, music, art, technology, maths, or science. Schools could apply for this specialist school title, and competition arose between schools to achieve it. The title lasted for three or four years, and during this time, no other school in the area could claim the same title.

This competition between schools for specialist school titles gave parents more choice and information about the schools in their area. Parents who wanted their children to attend a school with a particular specialist status could look for those titles. This increased competition also encouraged schools to improve their departments in a specific subject to achieve the specialist school status, ultimately benefiting students.

In addition to specialist schools, business-sponsored academies also emerged during this time. These academies created more independence for schools by lessening the control of the local authority and involving businesses in the running of the school. Businesses provided resources and technology, shaping the school's infrastructure and resources. For example, an Apple school would use iPads and Macs, while a Google school would use Chromebooks and Google Classroom. This independence allowed schools to shape themselves in ways that they wanted and tailor their teaching methods to their students' needs, ultimately leading to a more diverse and student-centred education system.

Coalition Government 2010 - 2015

Michael Gove introduced free schools under the coalition. These schools were free of local authority control, which allowed them to shape their own curriculum and have more freedom in how they ran their schools. Charities, businesses, and parents could apply to open a free school in an area where there was a lack of places for students. This created more competition between schools and gave parents more choice about where to send their children.

The coalition government also got rid of business-sponsored academies and created new style academies, which included multi-academy trusts. These trusts grouped schools together under one umbrella leadership to raise standards and share resources. Some of the larger academies like the Inspiration Trust would even move employees to different schools within the trust if needed. New style academies were freer from local authority dictation, allowing them more independence in how they ran their schools, policies, ideas, and curriculum. Although they still had to follow certain rules and educational policies, they had more freedom to choose. New style academies created competition between schools and gave parents more options for their children's education.

Conservative Government - 2015 to present

The current Conservative government has continued the trend of marketization in education that was initiated during the coalition government. Although their approach to marketization has been more subdued, there are clear indications of marketization in the current remote teaching situation. The government's promotion of remote teaching has provided schools with greater autonomy to determine their approach to remote learning. Consequently, different schools have employed different platforms for remote teaching, such as Microsoft Teams, Zoom, Google Classroom, and Show My Homework. This has given schools greater freedom to design their remote learning programs in accordance with their unique student populations.

The decentralized approach to remote teaching policies has allowed schools to exercise greater control over their delivery of remote learning. Schools have adopted varied strategies in the implementation of remote teaching policies, including fully live lessons, blended approaches incorporating both live and video elements, and non-screen based learning approaches. These strategies reflect the diverse needs and circumstances of the schools' student populations. The government's remote teaching policies have thus enabled schools to tailor their approaches to remote learning to the specific needs of their students, thus reflecting a market-oriented approach to education policy.