The limits of reform

  • Ken Jones
Part of the Crisis Points series book series


In the eyes of the (Labour) politicians who have most seriously pursued it, educational reform has had two aspects: the equalising of opportunity and the weakening of ‘class privilege’ in the education system. These goals have not been seen to depend upon a socialist transformation of society, but have most often been pursued as part of an attempt to modernise education, in response to national economic need. Thus, Antony Crosland, Secretary of State in the mid-1960s, advocated the ending of the public-school system and promoted wide-scale comprehensive reorganisation. Similarly, in the 1980s, Neil Kinnock has called for education to be a ‘finger in the fist of progress’ represented by the industrial policy of a future Labour Government, and has argued for the extension of the comprehensive principle to post-16 education and, again, for measures that would severely curtail public-school education. Each of these views identifies a ‘class bias’ in the English schools which prevents modernisation, promotes injustice and hinders industrial adaptability. However, it is plain that Crosland was not successful in eradicating or mitigating this bias, and it is not at all clear that Kinnock’s line of march is leading to a happier destination. Reformers of the school have tended to underestimate the intractability of the problem.


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© Ken Jones 1983

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  • Ken Jones

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