23 SES 14 D, Priority Education Policies in Europe: Can education compensate for society?
This paper charts the changing focus of priority education policies in Britain since the end of the Second World War. In England in particular, but also to a lesser extent in Scotland and Wales, the emphasis of priority education policies has shifted from providing extra resources for poorer students and schools, to attempting to valorise different cultures and achievements and, most recently, to trying to ‘empower’ students and parents through representation and choice mechanisms. These different approaches echo Nancy Fraser’s (1997; 2008) theorisation of the ‘dilemmas’ of justice – redistribution, recognition and representation (see Power 2012). The shifts in approach can be explained through ‘paradigm collapse’ – a collapse which is triggered by a combination of ‘internal’ and ‘external’ pressures. ‘Internal’ pressures grow as the inefficacy of any particular priority education policy becomes manifest and the flaws in its premises are exposed. ‘External’ pressures arise from a combination of shifting political imperatives and broader social and cultural movements. The paper illustrates these shifts – and the conditions that contributed to the paradigm collapse – through examining the fate of three contrasting examples of priority education policies: the establishment of Educational Priority Areas (Banting 1985; Smith 1987); the rise of multicultural education (CCS 1981; Modood & May 2001); and the introduction of parental choice (Whitty et al. 1998) and ‘free’ schools (Hatcher 2011). Each of these three examples epitomise attempts to mobilise money, respect or voice in order to reduce educational inequalities. Each of them has failed, and each of them has left a legacy of failure that has made subsequent attempts to foster the achievements of disadvantaged learners more difficult. The paper concludes by discussing the future of educational priority policies and speculates whether the growth in individualised and therapeutic interventions, such as mindfulness (e.g. Cullen 2011), might be seen as a fourth wave of intervention targeted at disadvantaged students and their schools.
Banting, K. (1985) ‘Poverty and Educational Priority’ in I. McNay & J. Ozga (eds) Policy-Making in Education: The breakdown of consensus. London: Pergamon Press. CCS [Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies] (1981) Unpopular Education: Schooling and social democracy in England since 1944. London: Hutchinson. Cullen, M. (2011). Mindfulness-based interventions: An emerging phenomenon. Mindfulness, 2(3), 186-193. Fraser, N. (1997) Justice Interruptus: critical reflections on the "postsocialist" condition. New York: Routledge. Fraser, N. (2008) ‘Reframing Justice in a Globalizing World’ in K. Olson (ed) Adding Insult to Injury: Nancy Fraser debates her critics. London: Verso. Hatcher, R. (2011) "The conservative-liberal democrat coalition government’s “free schools” in England." Educational Review 63.4: 485-503. Modood, T. & May, S. (2001) ‘Multiculturalism and education in Britain: an internally contested debate’, International Journal of Educational Research 35, 305-317. Power, S. (2012) ‘From redistribution to recognition to representation: social injustice and the changing politics of education’, Globalisation, Societies and Education, 10 (4), 473-492. Smith, G. (1987) ‘Whatever Happened To Educational Priority Areas’, Oxford Review Of Education, 13 (1) 23-38. Whitty, G., Power, S. & Halpin, D. (1998) Devolution and Choice in Education: the school, the state and the market. Buckingham: Open University Press.
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