Over the past decade people have been living through the most comprehensive reworking of the education system since the 1940s. The papers published here are based on those presented at an invited seminar sponsored by the Leverhulme Trust, held to bring together some of those researching the effects of Conservative policies, and considering alternatives. The political importance attached to what is still a small part of the school system is evident in the continuous references to grant-maintained status in the government White Paper Choice and Diversity and in the 1993 Education Act. Within Conservative ideology education is a commodity with parents supposedly free to 'choose' the quality, location and amount. Quality in education and 'raised standards' will depend on a commitment from all those involved working to achieve a common vision. The language of conservatism and the workings of an educational market will produce neither virtuous citizens nor successful entrepreneurs.