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Durham University

Department of Sociology

Research Projects

Publication details

Heath, A., Sullivan, A., Boliver, V. & Zimdars, A. (2013). Education Under New Labour, 1997-2010. Oxford Review of Economic Policy 29(1): 227-247.

Author(s) from Durham


This article reviews the evidence on New Labour’s educational achievements. It focuses on those aspects of policy that Labour itself highlighted in its manifestos, such as the raising of educational standards. A major issue, particularly on the issue of standards, is the methodological weaknesses of the statistics used. No firm conclusion can be drawn on whether standards rose or not: they probably merely kept pace with those in other countries. However, Labour clearly put more resources into education than the previous Conservative administrations had done. There is also evidence of increased participation in post-compulsory (16–18) education, and Labour policies probably contributed towards this. There is also evidence of narrowing inequalities in achievement at the end of compulsory schooling. Conversely, the introduction of fees for higher education does not appear to have made inequalities worse. On balance, then, education represents a modest success for New Labour, although the biggest story is really the over-claiming from both sides about their respective successes and failures and the poor quality and lack of commensurability over time of the statistical data.

Department of Sociology