Conservative Government policy and exclusion from school, 1988-1996
This thesis is about the relationship between exclusions from school and market forces in education. Through a series of interviews with groups of practitioners, conducted in a city authority between 1988 and 1996, the research looks at the effect of Conservative Government policy which introduced market force mechanisms into education via a programme of legislative reform; it focuses on the significant relationship between Conservative education policy and changes in the number and nature of school exclusions. The early chapters develop the theoretical argument which the research presents: establishing policy provenance, identifYing themes dominant in policy discourse and describing the legislative mechanisms which carry policy. A short chapter drawing on broader based research, outlines the national picture. Chapter Five introduces the field research, stating the questions addressed by the thesis, explaining and justifYing the research methods employed. The remaining chapters present and discuss the evidence. Drawing on the concerted 'voices' of front line practitioners the evidence shows what is happening to school exclusions. Respondents reveal attitudes that underpin decisions determining the exclusion process, showing which pupils are more likely to be excluded. Relating the evidence to the discursive themes developed in the early chapters the thesis seeks to understand why there has been an increase in exclusions from school with the implementation of Conservative policy. The themes of 'standards' 'choice' and 'diversity' in education, run as strands throughout the thesis. Issues which, when considered in relation to the empirical research which reports on the practical experience of children and young people excluded from school, raise searching questions about the efficacy of policy in the concluding chapter. The research engages both theoretically and empirically with the debate on whether the equitable distribution of educational resources and accessing of opportunities should be primarily desert-based or needs-based. It considers the meaning of school exclusion as a process of marginalisation, showing how disempowerment is invested in the implementation of policy. The thesis shows the standard of education this group of pupils have received and the extent of educational autonomy that these pupils and their parents have been able to exercise, - commenting on the efficacy of the policy of a Government that held power for eighteen years and developed a programme of radical reform that continues to have a profound effect upon all state educated children.