Education, justice and democracy
The struggle over ignorance and opportunity
This paper was commissioned as part of the Social State series to address the Giant Evil of ‘ignorance’ and propose new policy priorities for the reform of the education system in 2015 Britain.
In 1942, William Beveridge identified ignorance as one of society's Five Giant Evils in his most famous report, which became the foundation for the Welfare State in 1945. However, as Professor Stephen Ball demonstrates in Class's latest policy paper, equality between the social classes has never been reached in the education system and is in fact regressing to a situation more akin to the Victorian era than modern Britain.
Successive governments have passed the baton of responsibility for education from the state to the private sector, resulting in selection processes that favour the privileged and neglect the poor. Today, children of equivalent academic attainment at the age of 15 are still twice as likely to reach higher education if their parents are university educated.
Seventy years on from the Beveridge Report, we must take a step back and ask ourselves what education is for, Professor Ball argues. He calls for an end to an examination-driven syllabus, which forces schools to 'teach to the test' and focus on one section of students to the detriment of others. Responsibility for education should be taken out of the hands of the private sector and returned to the people, with a network of uniform 'common schools' which are governed by local stakeholders, including teachers, parents and students. On a broader scale, he warns that education is not the sole determiner of equality, and it should be linked to other anti-poverty strategies.