The Birth of New Labour and the Death of Comprehensive Education (FORUM 2)




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Publication date: June 1, 2012


It is argued that the creation of something called ‘New Labour’ in the mid-1990s marked the death of the comprehensive school in England – or, rather, the end of any attempt to create a nationwide system of comprehensive schools. The election of Tony Blair as Labour Party Leader in July 1994 can be viewed as THE defining year in post-war Labour history, in that it marked the point when Labour effectively turned its back on its social democratic agenda, which had included a commitment to the comprehensive reform. It can be argued that there had been a good deal of confusion throughout the twentieth century as to the exact meaning of the concept of ‘secondary education for all’ and that the Labour Party Establishment had never been unanimous in its endorsement of comprehensive education – so that, in repudiating the comprehensive ideal, Tony Blair was actually pushing at an open door. Nevertheless, when criticising the Coalition Government for its reactionary education policies, we must always remember that the Governments of Tony Blair and Gordon Brown were involved in the creation of a bewildering array of new types of secondary school, which left the system more divided and fragmented than it had ever been.

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