The impact of politics and personalities on Conservative education policies, 1976-1997
This thesis offers a detailed examination of aspects of Conservative education policies between 1976 and 1997. While developments during this period generated considerable amounts of contemporary discussion and analysis, this is the first historical study to cover the period as a whole. Drawing on a series of interviews with many of the participants, particular attention is paid to the two major developments that affected schools during the period - the introduction of a national curriculum and Grant Maintained schools. After an introduction that includes a discussion of the methodology, the typology used within the thesis, and a related literature review, the thesis follows a narrative structure in analysing the course of Conservative education policies between 1976 and 1997. Both the origins and the context of how the various policies emerged are discussed and analysed, as well as how and why there was a radical break with the previous pattern of educational policy making and discussion. The two issues that characterise the period are the politicisation of the policy-making process, and the consequences of that politicisation on implementing the actual policies. Attention is drawn to the increasing encroachment of politics and ideology into the field of education during the 1970s and 1980s, and how this encroachment created a new `space' between policy proposals and practice. While this development was responsible for the political triumph of the 1988 Education Reform Act, it proved less successful in translating that triumph into a sustainable and coherent set of policies during the implementation stage. The process of politicisation had introduced a degree of interference by individual politicians and their advisers that was a new development in the field of education policy, and it is argued that the conflicts generated by this overdependence and over-reliance on individuals to make decisions about education policy, rather than ideological incoherence or bureaucratic or professional opposition, was the primary factor that adversely affected the course of Conservative education reforms.