In this report I will precede to examine the advantages and disadvantages of the 1988 Conservative Education Reform Act and the 1997 New Labour Education Reform. I will discuss the effectiveness of each reform and I will elaborate on the implications for pupils and society. The 1988 Conservative Education Reform Act established the National Curriculum, the main advantage as cited in Haralambos & Holborn, (2000), was that it set a consistent standard across the country, in an attempt to promote equality.
Children were regularly assessed to establish whether they were meeting key stages appropriate to their development, and to determine weaknesses that required improvement. The issue with key stage testing is that pupils feel pressured and stressed by the constant assessments. To ensure equality the National Curriculum teaches the same subjects, throughout the country and has been a considerable success to the education system. The drawback with the national curriculum is that everyone has to study the same subjects; this raises an issue with the lack of individual choice.
As referred to in Blundell, (2001) results from the tests were drawn up into league tables which caused an unethical division of the education system. Parents, when selecting a school look at the league tables and this can be very misleading, as some of the best schools in Britain do poor in these league tables. New vocationalism gave those that were unemployed an opportunity to learn skills required for work. This assisted in tackling unemployment and reducing levels of crime. The disadvantage of the vocational subjects was that the unemployed would be punished, by withdrawing their benefits if they did not achieve.
Working class pupils were also often channelled into vocational subjects and consequently not receiving the chance to learn academically. Gender inequalities in the workplace were additionally yielded. Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education) was established in this reform to assess the quality of teaching and learning Ofsted’s aim; “Is to promote improvement and value for money in the services we inspect and regulate, so that children and young people, parents and carers, adult learners and employers benefit.
” (Ofsted 2012) If our country is to compete with other countries in the standards of achievement in education then low achieving schools are to be tackled. Low achieving schools are usually caused by insufficient leadership and poor teaching. These schools that are failing to provide pupils with an acceptable standard of education require special measures, to improve the services they are failing in. If they fail to show insufficient improvement then they would be closed. The disadvantage of Ofsted is; “One concern, however, associated with giving notice of inspection is that it allows time for “window dressing” by the setting.
For instance, one governor told us of a school which “having received notice of inspection gave two days holiday to all the pupils they did want the inspectors to meet” (Parliamentary Copyright 2011) This act also emphasised on the idea of parentocracy as mentioned in Haralambos & Holborn, (2000) this act was based on a large amount of marketisation. A large amount of money, which could have been spent on equipment and books for children, was wasted on glossy booklets, open evenings and mission statements. This was so schools could compete with other schools for the best pupils.
As cited in Haralambos et al, (2006), The 1997 New Labour Education provided two main aims; to provide training needed for a high skill/wage economy, so that the United Kingdom can compete in the world markets and to reduce unemployment, particularly for young people. As Tony Blair proclaimed; “Our top priority was, is and always will be education, education, education. To overcome decades of neglect and make Britain a learning society, developing the talents and raising the ambitions of all our young people” (The Guardian News 2012) This education reform was aimed to tackle inequality in society.
One advantage of the act was Curriculum 2000. This was based on equality for all and bridged the gap between academic and vocational qualifications. It made these qualifications equal in terms of level of achievement and introduced AS and A2 levels. Key skills such as application of number, IT and communication were introduced, these contributed to helping the unemployed back into work. The implementation of Beacon Schools was also an asset to this reform; they were given increased funding, as they provided resources and their expertise to lower-performing schools.
The weakness of the curriculum 2000 was that it failed to convince employers that vocational education was at the same parity with A Levels. A level’s in our society still rule higher than the equivalents such as GNVQ’s and BTEC’s. Specialised schools were also increased under Blair. As cited in Moore et al, (2008) this policy was a conservative policy which was extended by Blair the benefits were that it focussed on what parents, governors and sponsors wanted in the curriculum.
The schools were specialised according to what the demand of the sponsors was i.e. engineering and mechanics. Community schools were also a new development of this reform, with many advantages. As cited in Moore et al, (2008) they were seen as the ‘hub of the community’ and encourages parents and children to learn together. Breakfast clubs are available; they help disadvantaged children, as some children come to school without consuming breakfast. This assists in improving children’s concentration levels, it has a positive impact upon their educational achievement and required for cognitive development.
Homework clubs are established, which also allows underprivileged children to access school resources such as computers, printers and a library providing a large range of books. Community schools are advantageous to children as they provide equality and a range of opportunities including after school activities such as Brownies, Scouts, Karate and Dancing. These contribute to motivating children, whilst providing enjoyment and socialisation. Eaz’s (Education Action Zones) were a constructive development in this reform.
They were mainly opened in deprived poor areas and were parent managed, teachers were flexible with their lesson techniques, and extra money was given to fund resources and excursions, for more challenging pupils. These schools were child friendly schools and children were rewarded. These schools provided children with a second chance to get back into learning and education, because most of the children had been expelled from previous schools. The disadvantages of Eaz’s were that teachers lacked enthusiasm, due to challenging pupils and consequently do not commit to the children and learning environment 100%.
The achievement of grades was also hard to achieve and a lot of money was wasted on different ways of teaching. As parents had power in these schools it could undermine the teachers and the influence of parents could further inequality. Sure Start was also established during this reform and this offered free nursery education. They offered advice to parents and families with children under 5 and they formed courses aimed at parents, such as counselling, disciplining and healthy eating.
They also introduced toddlers groups like twinkle time and tuneful tots, these all benefit youngsters by teaching them socialisation and cognitive development from an early age. They also benefit the parents in assisting them with day to day parental issues. After examining the advantages and disadvantages of the 1988 Education Act and the 1997 Education Reform I conclude that the 1988 Education Act was a major factor in the development of young people in our society today and that many of the reforms have endured.
The 1997 New Labour Reform to reduce poverty and inequality in our society did not meet targets as they were not eradicated and in our society middle class children still do better than working class children. References Blundell, J. (2001) Active Sociology for GCSE, Pearson Education Ltd, Essex Haralambos, M. , Richardson, J. , Taylor, P. & Yeo, A. (2006) Sociology in Focus for AQA AS Level, Causeway Press Ltd, London Moore, S. , Aiken, D. & Chapman, S. (2008) Sociology for AQA 3rd ed, Collins, London Ofsted (2012) who we are and what we do Available at: http://www.ofsted. gov. uk/about-us (Accessed on 29th November 2012).
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