Education Policies – A Summary

The main aims, policy details and evaluations of the main waves of UK education policy – including the 1944 Butler Education Act, the introduction of Comprehensives in 1965, the 1988 Education Act which introduced marketisation, New Labour’s 1997 focus on academies and the 2010 Coalition government’s Free Schools. 

The 1944 Tripartite System

Main aims

  • Selective education – to provide different education to different types of student
  • Equality of opportunity – ability not money to determine schooling for the first time

Details of the Act

  • Tripartite system 11+
  • 3 Types of school


  • MC to grammar schools
  • Lacked parity of esteem

1965 Comprehensives

Main aims

  • Equality of opportunity – one type of school for all pupils

Details of the act

  • Abolition of TP system
  • One type of school for each person


  • Lack of parental choice
  • Poor standards in some schools
  • Banding and streaming along class lines

The 1988 Education Act

Main aims

  • (Neoliberalism and The New Right)
  • To introduce free market principles (more competition) into the education system
  • to introduce greater parental choice and control over state education
  • Started the privatisation of education
  • Raising standards.

Details of the act

  • Marketisation and Parentocracy
  • League Tables
  • National Curriculum
  • Formula Funding


  • Competition did increase standards
  • Selection by mortgage
  • Cream skimming/ polarisation
  • MC more choice – cultural capital, skilled choosers….
  • Also criticisms of league tables – teaching to test
  • NC – ethnocentric

1997 – New Labour

Main aims

  • To respond to increased competition due to globalisation
  • Raising standards
  • Equality of opportunity
  • Increasing choice and diversity

Details of policies

  • Increased funding to education
  • Reduced class sizes, introduced literacy and numeracy hour
  • Academies
  • Sure Start
  • EMA
  • Tuition fees introduced for HE


  • Early academies rose standards in poor areas a lot (Mossbourne)
  • Generally better at improving equality of opportunity than the New Right
  • Parents liked sure start but it didn’t improve education (improved health)
  • Tuition fees put working class kids off (connor et al)

2010 The Coalition Government and the Conservative Government

Main aims

  • Same as the New Right
  • To reduce public spending on education due to the financial crisis.

Details of policies

  • Cut funding to education (Scrapped EMA)
  • Forced academisation
  • Free Schools
  • Pupil Premium


  • Standards have carried on raising
  • Academisation and Free schools are both ideological – no evidence they improve standards more than LEA schools
  • Free schools – advantage the middle classes/ duplicate resources
  • Pupil Premium – too early to say!
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