Using discursive institutionalism (Scmidt, 2010; Schmidt 2002) as a methodological framework, this paper offers a conceptual analysis of English education policy 2015-2022.
On the surface, Michael Gove’s legacy (Secretary of State 2010-14) has cast a long shadow over educational reform, but closer, more nuanced analysis indicates that education policy during this period is more deeply influenced by hard wired and often conflicting liberal and conservative philosophies dating back several centuries. The fissures in party political thinking, so clearly evident in the turbulent year of 2022, signal not only a party at war with itself, but a crisis in the relationship between government and civil society. In greatest danger is the stability and integrity of public service, no less evidenced in the churn of educational reform and the crisis in the national health service (NHS).
However, if an historical and discursive perspective goes some way to explain current political wrangling, it also points to the manner in which Conservatism is being re-conceptualised and the role of state education in civil society and its relationship with government reimagined. Through the exploration of education policy documents and government press releases, this paper demonstrates how successive Conservative governments and Secretaries of State for Education have attempted to construct a coherent and consistent education discourse through one of the most turbulent times in Conservative political history.