SOSS Briefing – Politics and the Schools System

Callaghan’s Ruskin Speech 40 Years On In 1976 Prime Minister Callaghan spoke at Ruskin College and opened the way from the ‘secret garden’ to current school policy. The speech was a turning point from a world in which teachers, Her Majesty’s Inspectors and councils had control to the current centralised school system. What did Callaghan do and how did it lead to a new system? The speech has been hailed by School Ministers including Lord Adonis and the present minister, Nick Gibb – and marks the turn from a hands off approach to constant political intervention. What led Callaghan to make the speech, why did he challenge previous policies of non-intervention, and why did the speech mark a turning point in the politics of schools?

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SOSS Briefing – The Schools Revolution

We are seeing the most revolutionary change in education since the establishment, by the 1944 Education Act, of ‘secondary education for all’ and ‘a national system locally administered’. That Act, and with it the maintained system of education, is rapidly being dismantled with inadequate public or indeed parliamentary debate. This briefing looks at the issues.

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London Challenge and the “London Effect”

What improved London schools? Edited by Trevor Fisher


The improvement in test and exam results in London state schools since 2000, from some of the worst outcomes to the best results in England, has been widely discussed. The ‘London Effect’ is a major focus in the Westminster Village and in the media. But while the success of London Schools in test scores and GCSE exams is undeniable, the reasons why have become controversial.

At a time when debate internationally on the lack of evaluation of education programmes has been started by the OECD, London Challenge is a key issue. London is now successful. What role did the Challenge play in this success? And as other programmes replace it, can London’s exam and test success continue or will a down turn become evident?


Introduction – London Challenge – History & Debate – Trevor Fisher 

At the Beginning – Tim Brighouse 

From the Initial Government Statement – (DFE 2003)

Highlights of the Ofsted 2010 Analysis

SOSS a Symposium for Debate on Educational Policy 

The Causes of London’s Educational Success – Merryn Hutchings

Improvement in the Inner City – Richard Sidley 

Lessons from London – Trevor Fisher

This publication is available as a printed copy or a PDF download.

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School Exam Reform: Unresolved Issues

Essays on radical reforms & the urgent need for fresh thinking. Edited by Trevor Fisher


Essays on radical reforms & the urgent need for fresh thinking. Edited by Trevor Fisher From September 2015, on current plans, the school and college exam system will undergo fundamental reform. A Levels in the most popular subjects – but not Maths – will change. GCSE in maths and English will be transformed with other subjects due to change in September 2016. The programme will start to affect teachers this autumn with new specifications planned to arrive at the start of the school year. There has been relatively little debate on the reasons for the reform and no piloting or other testing is planned before these major changes begin. This pamphlet aims to promote debate on what the government is planning, the underlying factors driving the programme, and some of the effects, which will be considerable and come with many risks. The Coalition government claims its plans will lead to a world class examining system. By demanding harder exams, politicians think that students will automatically improve, a theory known as ‘raising the bar’. However will the changes create problems rather than progress? The coalition has engaged in a very top down approach, contrasting with more consensual approaches in previous years. By involving a wide range of stakeholders, past exam reforms have been uncontroversial, though not all have been successful. One key lesson from past failures – the need to pilot changes before they are imposed – seems to be ruled out. What are the implications of the decisions of the Westminster elite?

Essays deal with some of the major issues posed by current exam reforms for debate:

The rationale for change Trevor Fisher

Risks from the student perspective Joe Vinson

Learning from experience Richard Pring

Potential problems with GCSE Maths Sue Pope

Lessons from Raising the Bar Margaret Brown

Pointers from recent history Trevor Fisher

The Reform of Science A Level SCORE

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