Established during the 1960s and based on the progressive goal of good schools for all, the comprehensive system has over the past decades come under sustained attack from successive governments. Now, with the growing 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, the values embodied in the comprehensive ideal are under threat. The situation is expertly anatomized by journalist and educational campaigner Melissa Benn, who explores 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 recent 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 notion 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.
Read the review 'The Con-Dem's education counter-revolution' in Socialism Today 154