The great debate : the politics of the secondary school curriculum, 1976-1988
This thesis can be described as an in-depth study of the politics of the secondary school curriculum - and, in particular, of the comprehensive school curricu.1unl - 1r: the twelve-year period from 1976 to 1988. It is, in effect, a contribution to contemporary history - an analysis of the Great Debate in education which began in 1976 and ended officially in 1977 while, in reality, continuing unabated in the succeeding years. The eight chapters of the thesis consider: the evolution of the comprehensive school curriculum from 1944 to 1976; the increasingly harsh criticisms of the comprehensive system and its teachers in the early 19705; the origins and authorship of the so-called Yellow Book and of James Callaghan's Ruskin College Speech; the moves towards a 'common' or 'core' curriculum for the secondary age range; the increasingly energetic thrust towards central control of the curriculum; the issues of differentiation, vocationalization and privatization; and the origins of the curriculum proposals in the 1988 Education Reform Act. It is argued that although there was clear evidence of disillusionment with the education system in general - and with the comprehensive reform in particular - in the late 1960s and early 1970s, it was the economic crisis of 1973-75 which finally caused the role and purpose of education to be subjected to close scrutiny by all political groupings in this country. The Callaghan initiative of 1976 was essentially the response of right-wing Labour to that IJ.; crisis, with an attempt to build a new consensus around more central control of the curriculum, greater teacher accountability and the more direct subordination of the secondary curriculum to the perceived needs of the economy. The 1988 Education Act can be seen as an expression of the often contradictory aims and objectives of right-wing groupings within the Conservative Party, with the debate about the desirability or otherwise of a centrally imposed national curriculum being a dear example of conflict within New Right ideology about the role of the state in a free market Society.