At the time of writing this introduction the New Labour government has been in power for nearly two years. New Labour's election victory was highly significant as it appeared to be the concrete expression of a nation-wide reaction against the materialistic and individualistic values of the 1980s and early 1990s that had kept the Conservatives in power. Certainly a concern with the plight of the homeless, the mentally ill and other vulnerable sections of society is no longer considered 'wet'. Rather there appears to be a general recognition that 'eighties' values are ultimately unable to meet the deeper needs of individuals and society as a whole. Of course this change may well have a material base in that, except for the very rich and very fortunate, most people have been adversely affected by the materialistic and individualistic policies they once supported. After 18 years the divisions between rich and poor are greater than ever and extreme poverty in some sections of society is a serious issue. Redundancy, unemployment, homelessness and housing problems, reductions in public transport and a decline in health services have affected most of the population in one way or another. Also, of course, there have been radical changes in the education and training system including the introduction of the National Curriculum, local management of schools and league tables, as well as changes in the qualification and funding systems for post-compulsory education. These policies were all based on a belief in the virtue of individual and institutional competition and the need for greater accountability through direct government control of the system.