16 Pages


Educational reforms and equal opportunities programmes
BySheila Riddell, Jane Salisbury

Following its electoral victory in 1979, the Conservative government placed at the centre of its agenda the mission of tackling the ‘crisis’ within the welfare state. The discourse of crisis suggested that the post-war social democratic settlement had turned into an unwieldy bureaucracy which was failing to deliver high standards of service due to its control by the producers rather than the consumers. Furthermore, it encouraged dependency and was too expensive for the tax payer to afford. A few on the Right advocated the abolition of state welfare altogether, but a more commonly suggested solution was the introduction of the discipline of the market into the public sector along with the management practices of private industry. Deakin (1994:162) comments that despite a widespread recognition within the Conservative Party of ‘the need to break the hold of teachers over the manner and content of teaching’, there were few ideas of how to break into ‘the secret garden’ of the curriculum. Duncan Graham, subsequently to become responsible for the implementation of the National Curriculum, suggested that in the early 1980s, the Conservative Party had been captured by:

lobbyists who were continually ringing (sic) their hands, saying how awful it was that none of the country’s children-apart from their own-could read or write, and that something had to be done, without having the slightest idea what it was that had to be done, or how intractable the problems were.