Sociology of Education

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In this report I will precede to examine the advantages and disadvantages of the 1988 Conservative Education Reform Act and the 1997 New Labour Education Reform. I will discuss the effectiveness of each reform and I will elaborate on the implications for pupils and society. The 1988 Conservative Education Reform Act established the National Curriculum, the main advantage as cited in Haralambos & Holborn, (2000), was that it set a consistent standard across the country, in an attempt to promote equality. Children were regularly assessed to establish whether they were meeting key stages appropriate to their development, and to determine weaknesses that required improvement. The issue with key stage testing is that pupils feel pressured and stressed by the constant assessments. To ensure equality the National Curriculum teaches the same subjects, throughout the country and has been a considerable success to the education system. The drawback with the national curriculum is that everyone has to study the same subjects; this raises an issue with the lack of individual choice. As referred to in Blundell, (2001) results from the tests were drawn up into league tables which caused an unethical division of the education system. Parents, when selecting a school look at the league tables and this can be very misleading, as some of the best schools in Britain do poor in these league tables. New vocationalism gave those that were unemployed an opportunity to learn skills required for work. This assisted in tackling unemployment and reducing levels of crime. The disadvantage of the vocational subjects was that the unemployed would be punished, by withdrawing their benefits if they did not achieve. Working class pupils were also often channelled into vocational subjects and consequently not receiving the chance to learn academically. Gender inequalities in the workplace were additionally yielded. Ofsted (The Office for Standards in Education) was established in this reform to assess the quality of teaching and learning Ofsted’s aim; “Is to promote improvement and value for money in the services we inspect and regulate, so that children and young people, parents and carers, adult learners and employers benefit.” (Ofsted 2012) If our country is to compete with other countries in the standards of achievement in education then low achieving schools are to be tackled. Low achieving schools are usually caused by insufficient leadership and poor teaching. These schools that are failing to provide pupils with an acceptable standard of education require special measures, to improve the services they are failing in. If they fail to show insufficient improvement then they would be closed. The disadvantage of Ofsted is; “One concern, however, associated with giving notice of inspection is that it allows time for "window dressing" by the setting. For instance, one governor told us of a school which "having received notice of inspection gave two days holiday to all the pupils they did want the inspectors to meet” (Parliamentary Copyright 2011)

This act also emphasised on the idea of parentocracy as mentioned in Haralambos & Holborn, (2000) this act was based on a large amount of marketisation. A large amount of money, which could have been spent on equipment and books for children, was wasted on glossy booklets, open evenings and mission statements. This was so schools could compete with other schools for the best pupils. As cited in Haralambos et al, (2006), The 1997 New Labour Education provided two main aims; to provide training needed for a high skill/wage economy, so that the United Kingdom can compete in the world markets and to reduce unemployment, particularly for young people. As Tony Blair proclaimed;

“Our top priority was, is and always will be education, education, education. To overcome decades of neglect and make Britain a learning society, developing the talents and raising the ambitions of all our young people” (The...
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