School Wars tells the story of the struggle for Britain’s education system. Established during the 1960s and based on the progressive ideal of good schools for all, the comprehensive system has over the past decades come under sustained attack from successive governments.
From the poorest comprehensives to the most well-resourced independent schools, School Wars takes a forensic look at the inequalities of our current system, the damaging impact of spending cuts, the rise of “free schools” and the growth of the private sector in education. Melissa Benn explores, too, the dangerous example of US education reform, where privatization, punitive accountability and the rise of charter schools have intensified social, economic and ethnic divisions.
The policies of successive British governments have been muddled and confused, but one thing is clear: that the relentless application of market principles signals a fundamental shift from the ideal of quality education as a public good, to education as market-controlled commodity. Benn ends by outlining some key principles for restoring strong educational values within a fair, non-selective public education system.
Melissa Benn is a journalist, novelist and campaigner. She has written for the Guardian, the New Statesman, Public Finance, Cosmopolitan and the London Review of Books, among many others. Her writing on education includes Education and Democracy, co-edited with Clyde Chitty, and A Comprehensive Future: Quality and Equality for All Our Children, written with Fiona Millar. A regular broadcaster and speaker, she is a founder member of the Local Schools Network, set up to support local schools and to counter media misinformation about their achievements and the challenges they face. In spring 2012 she won the Fred and Anne Jarvis award in recognition of her outstanding individual contribution for a fairer education system.
Table of Contents
Introduction: A View from the Ground xi
I The Present Threat
1 Understanding the New Schools Revolution 3
II How We Got Here
2 The Piecemeal Revolution 37
3 The Long Years of Attrition 61
III The Way We Learn Now
4 The Politics of Selection 85
5 Going Private 105
6 The New School Ties 135
IV What Next?
7 The Shape of Things to Come? 161
8 'Go Public': A New School Model for a New Century 179
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