Gender, Policy, and Educational Change: Shifting Agendas in the UK and Europe

Gender, Policy, and Educational Change: Shifting Agendas in the UK and Europe

Gender, Policy, and Educational Change: Shifting Agendas in the UK and Europe

Gender, Policy, and Educational Change: Shifting Agendas in the UK and Europe


This book is an edited collection of chapters that aims to look at the developments that have taken place in recent years in gender policies. So many reforms have been made, yet often greater exclusion has been a result of these. How have gender issues affected educational policy and what have we learned? The contributors hope to provide answers.


Educational reforms and equal opportunities programmes

Sheila Riddell and Jane Salisbury

Introduction: the reform of education

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.

(1993:6, cited by Deakin 1994:162)

It was during the Conservative government’s third term of office that their resolve to tackle education was finally put into action. in England and Wales, the most sweeping measures were contained within the Education Act of 1988. in Northern Ireland and Scotland, the reforms were enacted differently but were none the less drawn from the same policy repertoire (sec David et al., Riddell, Salisbury, and Gallagher et al., this volume, for accounts of the reforms in different parts of the United Kingdom). As with other third term measures, the main consequences of the educational reforms were a simultaneous concentration and diffusion of power. Control of the curriculum, which teachers had long valued,

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