This essay will consider these changes and the social, political and economic reasoning which underpinned them.
To begin, in the decades prior to the 1988 Act, there was a general consensus view among all political parties that English state school performance was poor. Children were not achieving their potential. When compared with state schools performance throughout Europe, the English education system was deemed “ineffective” (Fisher 2008, p. 157). Public discussions on reforming the education system and initiating serious change had started in the 1970s. In a speech made in 1976, the Labour Prime Minister, Lord Callaghan, had voiced his concerns and called for a “Great Debate” on education (Haralambos et al 2000, p. 801). More specifically, he was worried about the lack of students basic skills, such as literacy and numeracy, current, “informal” methods of teaching and a lack of control over the curriculum (The Times). Economically, there were serious concerns about youth unemployment and a general failure to equip young people with the industrial skills a strong workforce needed (Haralambos et al 2000, p. 801).
In the early 1980s, according to McLaughlin, the “picture was bleak” for young people. Apprenticeships had massively declined and there was little opportunity to gain vocational qualifications. The introduction of the Youth Training Scheme (YTS), however, helped to improve the situation as young people did not need to worry about their educational achievement in order to gain a placement (McLaughlin 1992, p. 35).
However, the Youth Training Scheme did not address the underlying issue of the education system in the 1980s. As McLaughlin argues, qualifications at basic level were still a big problem for the government. The numbers of young people leaving school with very little or no qualifications at all had not changed. In addition, there were many young people failing to complete the YTS and problems associated