chapter  1
Education and the Working Class: A Cause for Concern
Pages 19

The provision of equal educational opportunities for all children was a central plank of post-war liberal democratic reform. It was also a major cause for concern among sociologists who sought to show the extent of the untapped 'pool of ability', and the continuation of 'restrictive' practices which prevented working-class children benefiting from 'secondary education for all'. Education and the working class nevertheless remained a major cause for concern and the success of the educational system was frequently measured in terms of its ability to promote educational and social mobility among the working class. However, by the mid-1970s it was 'only the daring or the self-interested who were willing to call for more educational growth as a certain way to economic and social salvation' (Kogan, 1978, p. 4). Educational reforms had not only failed to produce a more equitable society, but it was also believed (according to a growing number of politicians and industrialists) to have failed to improve Britain's economic competitiveness. Moreover, the economic recession of the early 1980s was accompanied by a significant political shift to the Right. Therefore, whereas in the 1960s Britain's economic prosperity was seen to depend upon the school's ability to tap the 'pool of ability' such efforts are now identified as a social and economic liability. Issues about equality of opportunity have been translated into issues about raising educational and moral standards, and making the education of the working class more vocationally relevant.