Meg Maguire and Justin Dillon
All aspects of learning to teach and teaching are controlled, explicitly and implicitly, by policy. Sometimes these policies appear to be driven by coherent and interrelated strategies for reform; at other times, education policy making seems to be chaotic; little more than a set of ad hoc responses to social dilemmas and public concerns. Until the late 1980s, 'you would have been hard-pressed to find many educationalists who thought that their world extended much beyond that of the classroom or their institutions' (Bottery 2000: 1). Since the late 1980s, the educational policy climate and its impact on schooling has reversed this situation. Education policy making has been appropriated by the central state in its determination to control, manage and transform society and, in particular, reform and drive education provision. The role of the school, and indeed the local authority, is subordinated to and by national policy imperatives. Currently, in the UK, as elsewhere, the role and work of schools and teachers are heavily prescribed by central government. What is being demanded of schools and their role in national prosperity and cultural cohesion is encoded in a litany of policy statements, documents and legislation. In consequence, schools and teachers have to be familiar with, and able to implement, policies that are planned for them by others and they are held accountable for this task.
In this chapter, we are taking 'policy' to refer to the plans for education developed by politicians and their advisers. However, with Jones (2003: 1), we recognize that any policy agenda is informed by the wider social context – 'social and cultural, economic and political' — and this includes global trends and pressures. Thus, macro factors will influence policy debates and policy responses, as we shall see. In such a short piece of writing, it is impossible to provide a detailed account of specific pieces of policy reform