The New Right and The Education Reform Act

The New Right refers to conservative, right wing political beliefs, best exemplified by the Thatcher government’s policies of the 1980s. Please note that the New Right is a political philosophy not a Sociological theory!

Underlying principles of the New Right

  • They believe the state (government) cannot meet people’s needs.
  • The most efficient way to meet people’s needs is through the free market – through private businesses competing with each other.
  • Economic growth is an important overall goal – to be achieved by allowing individuals the freedom to compete with each other.

Key ideas of The New Right on Education-

1. The New Right created an ‘education market’ – Schools were run like businesses – competing with each other for pupils and parents were given the choice over which school they send their children to rather than being limited to the local school in their catchment area. This lead to the establishment of league tables

2. Schools should teach subjects that prepare pupils for work, Hence education should be aimed at supporting economic growth.  Hence: New Vocationalism!

3. The state was to provide a framework in order to ensure that schools were all teaching the same thing and transmitting the same shared values – hence the National Curriculum
Evaluation of the New Right

  • Competition between schools benefitted the middle classes and lower classes, ethnic minorities and rural communities ended up having less effective choice – refer to the handout criticising the 1988 Education Act
  • Vocational Education was also often poor – refer to the HO on Vocational Education
  • There is a contradiction between wanting schools to be free to compete and imposing a national framework that restricts schools
  • The National Curriculum has been criticised for being ethnocentric and too restrictive on teachers and schools
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