Here, Mortimore extends the discussion by Pring in Chapter 1 on quality and standards. Mortimore calls for the de-politicization of education, and explores quality control in schools. He suggests schools should themselves be able actively to define what they consider to be quality, to pinpoint clear standards of achievement, and to decide exactly how these are measured. He rejects league tables which compare raw achievement scores, because no account is taken in these statistics of how far a child has developed.*
In current debates about education, the terms ‘quality control’ and ‘standards’ are frequently heard. They are used interchangeably in relation to claims about whether things are getting better or worse. Given that education is one of the major spending departments of government, it is not surprising that there is so much debate about whether value for money is being achieved. Yet one unfortunate characteristic of much of the debate carried out in recent times is that the message has been premised more on rhetoric than on evidence. Underpinning this rhetoric, however, are some fundamental questions. In his paper, Richard Pring (1991) draws attention to the debate between different views of education, liberal education and vocational education. Whilst using slightly different terms, in a recent article Carolyn Stone and I described the conflict between seeing education as an instrumental activity designed to achieve specifiable and uncontroversial educational goals and the Aristotelian view of education as an ethical activity guided by values which, themselves, are open to continual debate and refinement by those practitioners and other members of society (Mortimore and Stone, 1991). These views represent contrasting positions. For many people, however, education must be about both elements. It must be about the development, to the maximum potential, of all individuals
just as it must be about developing the maximum potential of our society with its specific needs and requirements. Ideally, there would be little conflict between these two needs and it would be possible to develop to the maximum individuals within a context that is good for society as a whole.