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Education in Britain 1979 to Present

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The period from 1979-1997 can be referred as neo-liberalism era as it was characterised by marketisation especially of public services. According to Gillard (2011) it was also a period of social and economic restructuring whereby Thatcher applied her unpopular aggressive policies earning her the title of ‘iron lady’. Prior to conservative government taking over office tremendous changes had been made in the education sector especially resulting from the 1944 Education Act. This Act saw the introduction of free and compulsory education to pupils aged 5-16 and also the famous selection tests known as 11+ (Jones, 2003: 25). The schools were put on Local Education Authorities who were involved in funding and management of schools. Parents, in this case, did not have much choice as to what schools their pupils should attend. Although the Act was aimed at creating equal opportunities for students’ social class differences were still apparent as students from the middle class attended good schools while those from poor backgrounds ended up in technical schools. It was a three tier system comprising of grammar schools, technical school, and secondary modern. Exclusion thus persisted.
While in office, the secretary for education James Callaghan had instituted a youth opportunity program for 16-18-year-olds in 1978 after a great debate on the nature and purpose of education. When Thatcher came into office she did not abolish the system but rather expanded it in 1980 and renamed in 1983 to be the Youth Training Scheme. However, the debate in her time was one sided ads she did nit involve other actors such as parents, teachers and governors. In 1980 she also started the Assisted Places Scheme to help those poor students who passed entrance exams to get free places (Chitty, 2004: 45. Gillard, 2011). The first agenda for Thatcher concerning education was to do away with the 11 plus selection exam but her efforts were thwarted since comprehensive schooling still enjoyed great popularity (Richmond, 2007). The curriculum in place is determined by the government of the day hence prone to a lot of changes. The selection exam was