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Education: Slippery paths to the top

Education and the Middle Class
By Sally Power, Tony Edwards, Geoff Whitty and Valerie Wigfall
Open University Press pound;17.99

Class Strategies and the Education Market
By Stephen J Ball
RoutledgeFalmer pound;22.50

Education Denied: costs and remedies
By Katarina Tomasevski
Zed Books pound;15.95

Tony Blair has never been accused of claiming there is no such thing as society, as Margaret Thatcher has. Society for Blair, though, is essentially middle-class. He looks for "a new, larger, more meritocratic middle class... with ladders of opportunity for those from all backgrounds and no more ceilings preventing people from achieving the success they merit".

New Labour's education reforms are driven by that vision. The question not generally asked is whether the ladders are equally reachable by all. How skilful, in this real-life game of snakes and ladders, are the existing middle classes at working the system to their children's advantage? And what are the snakes that may frustrate them?

Two important books address the issue and are in broad agreement on the answers. Very skilful indeed, they say: all the more so, because the snakes, though few, are further removed.

Read more in this week's TES Friday magazine



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