21/10/2011 Political Science
DOI: 10.1080/00131911.2011.626897 SemanticScholar ID: 146152193 MAG: 2158685378

“Education, education, education”: new government, new policies?

Publication Summary

This special issue was planned just as 14 years of New Labour government came to an end in the UK, and a new coalition of Conservative and Liberal Democrat members, the first time in decades, took over. The previous 14 years had changed the face of education in the UK and in particular the role that the State plays in deciding what is taught, where it is taught, to whom and by whom. What changes would the new administration bring? How would their ideologies work out in practice? What challenges would they encounter in implementing their new policies, especially in the face of economic difficulties and the social unrest that may follow? Such questions were not answerable definitively at the time we issued the call for contributions. We did not even know how long the Coalition or the minority Conservative core of that Coalition would last in government. So, as editors, we expected to receive work that used the past to help predict the future, that used international and comparative evidence as a guide to what might happen in the UK, or that simply presented valuable descriptive accounts of how new policy has emerged and what it might mean. We also wanted a range of papers that addressed different phases and sectors of education in the four home countries of the UK. Given the limitations of space, and the difficulties of evaluating policy as it is being formed, the seven papers in this special issue do an admirable job of covering a lot of this ground. It is interesting, and perhaps a shame, that we received no papers for review that were explicitly about home countries other than England and Wales, and none that addressed pre-school or adult learning other than FE and HE. Selwyn contrasts the approaches of the New Labour and Coalition Governments to digital technology in schools. In an introductory section, he sets out the extent to which the New Labour government demonstrated a clear and unprecedented commitment to the development of information and communication technology. This is compared with what he sees as perfunctory acknowledgement of the importance of digital technology in schools in both Conservative and Liberal Democrat manifestos in the run up to the 2010 election, and in subsequent Coalition educational policy. Not only has funding to schools been curtailed but Selwyn shows the ways in which the Coalition approach has amounted to a “sustained withdrawal of state support for digital technology use in schools”. He makes the point that it is not a case of the Coalition Government being opposed to or underestimating the importance of digital technology in schools. Rather a number of other factors are evident. One of these is that in the current economic climate, in addition to the vast amounts of funding already invested in digital technology in schools, high levels of further state financial support are not viable or necessary. A related factor is the political resolve to reduce state involvement in public services and replace this with local decisionmaking and the greater use of the private sector. With this aim at the centre of CoaEducational Review Vol. 63, No. 4, November 2011, 391–394

CAER Authors

Avatar Image for Stephen Gorard

Prof. Stephen Gorard

University of Durham - Professor in the School of Education

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