Diversity, specialisation and equity in education

  • Taylor C
  • Fitz J
  • Gorard S
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School diversity in the UK is not a new phenomenon. However, recent reforms to 'modernise' the secondary school system towards greater diversity of provision, primarily in England, needs to be explored in more detail. The article begins by proposing three phases in the development of statefunded school diversity and provision between 1944 and 1997. It then goes on to consider such reforms with the introduction of a Labour government in 1997. We argue that school diversity under New Labour represents a distinct fourth phase within this broad policy agenda. While there is some continuity in the expansion of school diversity this most recent phase is characcterised by greater governmental intervention and a stronger commitment to provide greater resources for schools in disadvantaged communities. However, the paper then critically analyses the relationship between recent programmes of education diversity and equity. In particular, we go on to discuss the extent to which critics' fears about the emergence of a two-tier system are justified. We conclude that while the fourth phase in the UK school diversity agenda may aim to be more equitable, complementary and collaborative it perhaps fails to recognise that the education system today is more competitive and consumer-led. CR - Copyright © 2005 Taylor & Francis, Ltd.

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