Conference Papers

Has the marketisation of education in England created a behemoth that is wreaking havoc on society?

Ever since Callaghan’s 1976 Ruskin speech, the tides of change have swept over education under the guise of neoliberalism, diversity and choice. The current Coalition government has continued to expand on the neoliberal education policies introduced by both Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative and Tony Blair’s New Labour governments, by increasing the roles of Academies and allowing the creation of free schools. Whilst the general election in the United Kingdom in May 2015 may result in some changes to the current system, it is unlikely to result in any major changes.

The sheer randomness of a free-market should not be seen as long term planning for obtaining first class schools and teachers in England. As long as it continues to create a clear hierarchy of local schools (Benn, 2006), and therefore society, the policy of diversity and choice, however it is regulated, is not the answer to social inequalities (Gewirtz et al., 1995).

This conceptual study will suggest that, whilst it could be argued that since the increase in school choice, pupils’ achievements have improved (Machin & Silva, 2013), these improvements have come at a cost to society as a whole, with social mobility actually declining (Bates et al., 2011). Reay (2012: 588) suggests that a ‘just educational system’ in a neoliberal system is a contradiction of terms.

The neoliberal reforms of the education system seem to have created a society that is more acceptable of its inequity, rather than one that is more equal (Whitty, 1998).

Taylor, S. (2015) 'Has the marketisation of education in England created a behemoth that is wreaking havoc on society?', paper presented to The 11th Annual Conference of the British Education Studies Association (BESA), 25–26 June, viewed 13 August 2020, <>

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