Reviewing more than a decade of its reforms to schools in England and Wales, the Department for Education (DFE) in 1992 identified ‘five great themes’ embodied in the changes:
Five great themes run through the story of educational change in England and Wales since 1979: quality, diversity, increasing parental choice, greater autonomy for schools and greater accountability.
(DFE/WO, 1992, p.2)
As might be expected, these themes are evident in the legislation of this period and, in the first main section of this chapter, it is upon that legislation that we draw to provide an account of the national context in which our study is located. It is within that context that the subsequent two sections examine specific aspects of change in resource management and their implications for school improvement. A fourth section draws attention to different ways of providing ‘greater autonomy for schools’. It is an important element in an argument which calls for sensitivity in understanding national and international differences in delegated management.
The Conservative government elected in 1979 was committed to wideranging reforms, of which education was one part. In education, the first legislative expression was the 1980 Education Act which included changes relevant to what were later identified as the ‘great themes’ of diversity, choice and accountability. Diversity and choice were encouraged by ending further moves towards non-selective secondary education and by creating a scheme which financed access to schools in the private sector, ‘enabling pupils who might not otherwise be able to do to benefit from education at independent schools’ (Section 17). Accountability was addressed by changes to the governance of schools. The Act provided that, in general, all schools should have individual governing bodies and it was