Changes to the education system have resulted in greater equality of opportunity for all pupils

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The education system is always changing and will always be continually updated and improved to the benefit of society. The question however is that are the educational changes that are being made resulting in greater equality of opportunity for pupils and bringing about an educational meritocracy, or is that just another “hidden message the members of society are taking in. ” The main starting point for when educational changes began were in the period after the second world war around 1945.

It was at this period that children attended elementary schools up to the age of fourteen, which was quickly moved to fifteen come 1947. In this era of education girls and boys were given completely separate curriculum’s with boys learning the stereotypical technical and physical skills needed for industry and girls learning the domestic skills needed for them to become successful house workers.

This sentence alone shows the severe steps taken in bringing about gender equality considering how unacceptable those kind of teaching methods would be in today’s educational system. The next main change made in the educational system was the introduction of the tripartite system, a system in part still existing today. Three types of school’s were created for three general types of pupils. Grammar schools made for the academic, secondary modern schools for the average pupil and secondary technical schools for the creative and artistic type of pupil.

At the time this system was seen as a major factor in bringing about equality for all and gave every child no matter what class, background or gender the same chance at success by making every pupil take an IQ test at 11, the 11 plus test to separate those students heading to grammar and technical schools from the more common students heading to the secondary modern schools. The Tripartite system advertised a parity of esteem policy whereby all schools were expected to have the same standards of provision.

This system at the time went a long way to convincing people that equality of opportunity for pupils was a major goal of the government and a key priority. Around the period of 1965 the labour government instructed all local authority’s to make plans to create one general large comprehensive school to be used by all pupils with no considerations made to class, ethnicity, ability. The governments general aim was to promote social justice and general tolerance, these schools were designed to maintain the high standards set by the grammar schools and also offer a wider range of sporting and recreational opportunity’s for pupils.

The labour government also made a great effort in providing more higher education options for the working class creating several new universities, open universities and polytechnic universities. The labour government clearly recognising the issue with inequality of working class pupils put in a great deal of investment on money and new teachers to set up six areas of “Educational Priority Areas” all situated in poverty stricken working class areas of the UK. This scheme was known as compensatory education giving out more cash and teacher training then other established areas.

These developments from the labour government showed to society that the government were aware of the problem and were making a genuine effort to provide a greater equality for all pupils. In 1972 the leaving age had been raised to 16 also now forcing all pupils to sit national examinations. Teachers needed new methods to keep students interested to stop them leaving at an early age so mixed ability classes were introduced due to the damaging effect streaming and the tripartite system had on the pupils based in the lower classes or schools.

In secondary schools mode three exams were brought in which allowed teachers the freedom to create and write there own syllabuses. These were only for CSE exam pupils however and O levels were made for the more able pupils. This era was quickly finished however when Thatcher and the conservative party came into power. The conservatives based their educational changes around the fact that more emphasis needed to go into training up young pupils for work and industrial skills.

Youth training schemes and work experience were introduced to back this statement up. The assisted places scheme brought into the system in 1980 gave bright working class students the chance for success if they could pass the entrance exam free places in the public schools would be granted. The most influential act on education thus far has been the 1988 education reform act which most of the policies are still in action today. All pupils now sit the national curriculum in the same subjects with a small percentage of choices made optional.

SATS are now taken at seven, eleven and fourteen and are the main basis for the school league tables showing schools overall performance. Parents were now also allowed to make there own choices about there child’s school choice selecting the school they feel best for there child no matter middle class or working. When the labour party were put back into power in 1997 curriculum 2000 was introduced which extended the education reform act adding elements like an increased choice of work based vocational courses and the ability to take up AS level subjects before going straight into A level.

After reading through these changes it is clear that the educational system have the equality of opportunity for all pupils as a large priority. For just under six decades now various governments and groups have been making alterations and changes to try and bring about an educational meritocracy and yet still it is not complete although is a long way from the dismal stages of the 1950’s.

There are many criticisms that can be suggested for the reasons the changes brought about so far have not worked however, firstly when the tripartite system was brought in to bring about “equality for all” the crippling factor about this system was that pupils became demoralised and this was when the general working class image undertook a lot of damage. Middle class children were disproportionately selected for the grammar schools with working class going to secondary moderns and any middle class who failed the 11 plus were usually sent into private education by there parents either way.

Secondary moderns generated a very poor reputation and the parity of esteem slogan did not occur. Secondary moderns were quickly viewed as being very much inferior to grammars. Some also felt the IQ tests were exploiting the working class children and were culturally favouring middle class pupils. The promise of many technical schools fell flat as costs were to high and not enough was provided to see the promise through meaning a clear division between secondary modern and grammar and therefore between working class and middle class.

The system was also very unfair to girls with many feeling the examiners marked down the girls due to the fact they matured more quickly than boys giving them an advantage, aswell as the fact that across the country the difficulty to get into a grammar school solely depended on the number of places available which varied throughout the whole country leading to problems like people moving to schools with more places or schools with to many places being filled with people with the incorrect ability.

Comprehensive schools main problem was the way the schools grouped the classes with the damaging idea of streaming which gave bad reputations to the lower sets and led to potential humiliation or embarrassment for pupils in the bottom sets. Another problem with comprehensives was the fact that they were generally poor, they were criticised for poor discipline, truancy, poor standards, conditions maybe with to many pupils at one school.

The education reform act was not without criticism to with people attacking the fact that the excessive testing was providing to much stress for pupils and the fact that parental choice was at best a myth with to few extra places available for parents to pick there most desired schools. The league tables were also felt to be generally a bad idea as schools concerned to much over there results as opposed to the pupils well being leaving bad pupils or low ability pupils out of exams to make the school look as good as possible.

To conclude the essay it is important to note that education has come a fair way since the earlier years of different sex curriculum’s and heavy biased attitudes favouring middle class pupils. The gender issue has been massively improved to a point where education is almost on an equal level for males and females and where it is at a point where girls are now outperforming boys in exams. The gap between middle class and working class has been improved a lot but still has weaknesses and more work in order to fully reach a meritocracy where education is concerned.

At least now the educational system is heading in the right direction and changes to the system are always favouring equal opportunity. Assess the view that the main thrust of educational reform has been to increase the control of education by those outside the educational system. This overall view on education supports the Marxist perspective that the ruling class control education and make the changes that are needed in order to keep society the way it is.

Educational reform is controlled by the government and the government only, gone are the days where a teachers input and thoughts were considered important and now education has been shaped to fit exactly what the government need and when they need it. A few years ago around the 1960’s, 1970’s teachers were given a much greater deal more power at one point allowed to create there own syllabus’s teaching there pupils only what they and they alone considered to be the most necessary content for there pupils, those days have passed however and now we are In an era where education is completely 100% in the hands of the government.

Over the years when educational reform has been at its most dramatic period to the on looking public and members of society it has appeared as if the government have been making more and more progressive steps towards achieving an educational meritocracy and although many attempts had failed it appeared as if the government were on the track to success and achieving that meritocracy as the Functionalist perspective would see it however for the Marxist’s in society it is a completely different story.

As the Marxism theory views educational reform, it is simply a progressive step towards giving more and more control to the ruling class taking away more from the teachers and pupils who will suffer as a result. For example in the early 1970’s and 1980’s a growing support had occurred for mixed ability teaching in the UK. This support came about due to the very negative and damaging problems that had arisen with the period of setting and streaming pupils in classes of single gender and similar ability.

However despite these clear problems in the early 1990’s when schools most would assume would have learned from the previous problems many schools resorted back to the setting system showing a clear disregard for the equality of pupils. Schools in the Marxist perspective have moved away from worrying about child equality and have focused there attention on following any procedures given to them by the government in an attempt to bring about as much academic success as possible particularly favouring those pupils of a very able nature.

Another large new policy brought in to help out the inequality problem was that of the national curriculum providing one curriculum for all no matter male, female, intelligent or not. A number of teachers have officially gone on record to state that they feel the curriculum is simply incompatible for mixed ability teaching and also due to the examination stress and desperation from schools creates a school marketplace with schools all competing with each other for the best results and therefore reputation.

This according to many is unhealthy for schools as the schools are focusing greatly on providing the needs of parents from valued children, which directly creates inequalities in itself. Middle class family’s now also regard the popular system of setting and streaming as very positive leading to schools continuing this system putting working class children into lower sets giving them low self esteem and motivation and creating an immediate inequality between the working class and middle class.

The new reform policy of league tables based on national SAT’s results is also creating a heavy problem as now schools are focusing so much on getting solid results out of there high achievers to make there place in the league table as good as possible they are therefore then concentrating there efforts on the more able students and putting less effort into those students who will not get the top marks generally the working class children.

These policies have been put in for a reason and it is clear that the government must have realised these knock on effects before releasing the policies especially in today’s society where they have been around for a good number of years. The problems are clear and the government made those problems because it has given them the control over education they desired. A simple fact to show the inequalities are still causing big problems are that 75% of top jobs in British institutions including the armed forces, legal system and of course the government are held by employee’s who were educated at private fee paying schools.

A chain is now existing in these institutions to keep the inequalities the way they are involving employee’s now sending there own sons and daughters to private fee paying schools keeping the clear inequalities between private schools and public schools and then also the employee’s of the institutions are employing people to there company from these private schools. This self employment system is known as the school tie network and is a perfect system to continue bringing up the inequalities the government need to keep there level of control over the education system.

The general change of education has been towards a system described as being standardised, measurable, accountable and cost effective and the previous information shows that education is still being controlled by the government and as opposed to having the pupils interests at heart the main priority is to ensure the government still have total control over every educational aspect in society today.

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