A new book by Stephen J. Ball about current education policy trends in British education. The book explores the flood of government initiatives and policies that have been introduced over the past 20 years, including Beacon Schools, the Academies programme, parental choice, Foundation Schools, faith schools and teaching standards. He looks at the politics of these policy interventions and how they have changed the face of education, ‘joining-up’ policy within a broader framework of initiatives, turning children into ‘learners’ and parents into ‘consumers’. In the following article at the Guardian it also indicates that none of those initiatives have made any difference to the social segregation of schools in Britain.

“Education is a servant to the economy,” Ball says. “Education is now thoroughly subordinated to the supposed inevitabilities of globalisation and international economic competition.”

From The Guardian, January 29, 2008:

The English education system is sliding back into Victorian times with today’s schools almost as segregated by social class as they were in the 19th century, a controversial new book argues. The Education Debate, published tomorrow, draws a parallel between today’s academies, faith and comprehensive schools, and the elementary, grammar and public schools of more than a century ago.

Its author, leading educationalist Professor Stephen Ball of London University’s Institute of Education,

claims that despite government rhetoric over the past 20 years, class inequalities are now almost as stark as they were in the Victorian era.

The debate follows an attack on the independent sector by Dr Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington Col

lege, who said earlier this month that private schools perpetuated an “apartheid” system of schooling, creaming off the most able students and leaving state schools to flounder.

In the Victorian era, Britain had a rigid class structure. The working class went to elementary schools, th

e middle class to grammar schools and the upper class to public schools. The Church and charitable individuals had considerable influence over the system. And all this is happening again at an ever-increasing pace, to the detriment of our society, says Ball, who is also an editor of the Journal of Education Policy.

He argues that faith schools are now primarily for the middle class, community schools increasingly for the working class, and private and public schools have been kept the preserve of the upper class.

“Since the 1970s, education policy has been about ‘radical’ change, but the education system remains split along class lines,” Ball says.

“The class gap in participation rates in higher education is larger than ever before, despite the overall increases in participation; the poorest children, those with special educational needs, recent arrivals and those for whom English is not their mother tongue are clustered in certain schools. We are seeing the recreation of almost all the elements of the Victorian class-divided education system.” This, Ball says in his “forensic analysis” of education policies over the past 20 years, is despite “unprecedented government activity” in education.

(read full article here)

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