The involvement of government in welfare service delivery is a relatively recent phenomenon. Historically, non-state actors played a major role - that is, market-based for-profit organisations, non-profit and charitable organisations and informal entities such as families all contributed to the care and management of the vulnerable and poor. Tony Blair's 'third way' was conceived as a pragmatic strategy aiming to bridge the gap between the rather roughly presented extremes of "cold-hearted capitalism" on the one side and a welfare policy whose reach into society was too great on the other. The aim of this new strategy is to create an efficient education system and a situation in which every one, regardless of background, has an equal chance in society, and to ensure that all who are willing to work are allowed to share in the nation's success.
Some LA's operate a three-tier system whereby pupils can attend lower, middle and upper school. Pupils between the ages of 5 - 9 can attend first school, middle school is attended by ages 8 or 9 and then continue on to upper school at the age of 12 or 13.
Of course the types of school in the United Kingdom are then defined by how they are operated and who runs then. For example there are four types of mainstream school in the state sector. These consist of:
Community Schools: Schools which were previously county-managed schools. The local authority is responsible for employing staff, ownership of land and buildings and also decides how the process of admitting pupils is handled.
Foundation Schools: Previously grant-maintained schools but which are now run by the school governing body who assume responsibility for the employing of staff and their admissions policy. Ownership of the land and buildings may be through the governing body and/or a charitable foundation.
Voluntary-aided: A considerable number of voluntary-aided schools are church schools. A governing body will oversee the employing of staff and will decide upon admission practices whilst the land and buildings are usually owned by a charitable foundation.
Voluntary-controlled: Normally church schools with land and buildings owned by a charitable foundation: but differing from voluntary-aided schools in that the local authority is responsible for the employment of staff and also the admissions procedures.
In addition to this the school system of the United Kingdom also has:
Specialist schools: schools which specialise in areas such as Information Technology, the Arts, Languages and Sports. These schools meet the National Curriculum requirements but maintain a special interest or focus on any of the aforementioned subjects.
Grammar Schools: Local authorities still run a selective secondary school system with grammar schools. Pupils in specific areas will sit the 11-Plus and depending on the results of this test can achieve entry to a grammar school. At the present time there are around 150 grammar schools in England.
Faith Schools: A Faith school is a school which can only operate under the express agreement of both parents and the local community and is approved by the local authority. Most faith schools are voluntary-controlled and teach an agreed religious syllabus. Faith schools are responsible for their own admissions policies and teach religious subjects in accordance with their religious beliefs.
Special Needs Schools: As more and more special needs children are being taught in mainstream schools the number of Special Needs Schools is diminishing. That said however, there still remain in excess of 1,150 Special Needs schools dealing with children whose problems are more serious. A considerable number of these schools are run by voluntary and charitable organisations with the remainder being run by and/or in a hospital environment.
Pupil Referral Units: PRU's are a particular type of school who educate those children who have been excluded from mainstream education for a number of reasons. For the most part this may include teenage mothers or pupils who have been excluded from mainstream education as a result of serious behavioural problems. PRU's are fundamentally geared towards helping these pupils return to mainstream education and are run by management committees which normally consist of school governors, influential members of the community and representatives from social services.
Traditional Conservative and Labour policy through the years have been different for the most part. However the 1997 Labour government has been different from those that preceded it, this is due to the emergence of the more centre, mainstream New Labour.
There have not been very many major differences in Education policy since Labour came into power. Labour have kept Grammar schools and have changed the names of what were city technology colleges, to city academies. Labour have also turned many schools in specialist schools that specialise in certain areas. These policies have faced criticism as private companies are sponsoring academies, which go against the traditional labour belief of nationalisation. Grammar and specialist schools are also argued to be creating a two-tier system of comprehensive education, with Grammar being better than most and schools that specialise in subjects such as P.E, music and art are argued to be poor at the other, perhaps more important subjects.
In some cases Labour have adapted or furthered ideas the conservatives started. League tables for schools were introduced in 88 by the conservatives Labour have adapted them so that the schools results take into account the schools intake, area and resources, this is called value added. Grant Maintained schools where the LMS has the most influence on the budget have simply changed to foundation schools where the head controls the budget. The basic principle of the school has remained even though Labour said they would get rid of GM schools. SATs also have remained since introduced in 88 despite heavy criticism. OFSTED have remained as the schools inspectors, University expansion has continued although the Conservatives now oppose it. Compulsory Competitive Tendering has remained. Labour have continued to name and shame failing schools, which has produced schools such as the Phoenix school. And policies that go completely against traditional Labour policy have remained such as Private schools maintaining their charity status meaning they don't have to pay taxes, although the only charitable service they provide is taking money from affluent families to teach their children. Although they have set up a commission to look into this issue, it is likely they will continue their Trend of taking no notice of these commission's reports. Labour have continued with the National Curriculum although it is widely seen as a good thing.
However Labour have managed to change quite a few things. One example is the increase of Tuition fees for University by introducing Top Up Fees, which is a fee all must pay to attend University, although families with lower incomes don't have to pay as much as higher earning families, they have to pay more than they would have under the previous system, this led to massive debate and criticism with many arguing Labour were introducing something that went against their fundamental policies of equality whatever the wealth as now some people could be priced out of going to University ( but now the conservatives are increasing the tuition fee even more).
Labour has introduced some policies, which have been widely regarded as constructive, worthwhile and effective. Reducing class sizes especially for younger pupils has worked well, as have the new Educational Maintenance Allowance, which gives up to £30 a week to students from low income families if they have full of very near full attendance. This has been regarding as a good policy as it encourages children who tend to be the worst attending and achieving, to attend and therefore give them a better chance to achieve. It also means the onus on them to get a job for money is lowered or they can work fewer hours. They have also allowed Sikh and Islamic schools for the first time following on from the policy to widen participation which the EMA was also part of. They have also introduced state nurseries for children of 4 to help this.
Some of Labour's more criticised policies have been the huge increase in classroom assistants and their powers, which although relieve pressure off teachers have led to less skilled teaching of students by the assistants who have the power to cover and take lessons. Performance Related pay for teachers was introduced although it could be argued it is impossible to measure a teacher's performance as it may not just be their teaching ability which led to good or bad results from the students. Labour have introduced gifted and talented and excellence in cities for higher achieving students which is aimed to increase their chances and give them further opportunities, although many argue it is actually the lower achieving students which need the extra help.
Targets in schools are also a very contentious issue with many believing there is too much interference from the state to schools, and targets turning students into figures and statistics rather than individuals. Labour have also made languages optional post 14 and introduced literacy and numeracy hours, all of which has been argued against by many teachers who believe language is an important but dwindling talent amongst the British public, and see literacy and numeracy hours as a waste of time and unnecessary.
Labour have completely reformed the A level system, which many people have agreed with, this is also the sort of revolutionary policy Labour should be associated with doing. Some of the policies they have introduced themselves would be policies not out of place being proposed by the Tories. However policies seen as more inclusive as helping disadvantage students such as state nurseries for 4 year olds, EMA and the end of assisted places have been introduced. Labour's education policy matches their polices for many things such as health which has also had an increase in bureaucracy due to things like targets and league tables. Also schools work towards targets rather than specifically on the success of the students. Labour have invested more money into education than the Conservatives, which is a more traditional Labour idea. There have been few revolutionary policies with the exception of A level reform and top up fees and considering Labour's record breaking large majority this is surprising
Overall the view that the functions of the education system are there to select and prepare individuals for their future is correct. The education system is there to provide young people with an education which will allow them to have a better future. The education system selects individuals according to their abilities, it then prepares people for the career in which suits them best. It teaches individuals about the norms, values and morals of society in a more in depth way than they have already been taught by their family. It legitimates the ideologies that it teaches, therefore giving the individuals a greater understanding of why they follow certain rules and do certain things, which will prepare them for their future.