League tables and centralised targets have focused schools on exam results at the expense of a "rounded education", a right-wing think tank claimed this week.
The Reform report traces centralisation in schools back to 1987 and the introduction of the national curriculum, Ofsted and national testing. It argues that the trend deepened under Labour, producing a stagnation of standards for the poorest pupils, increasing the divide between private and state schools, and limiting pupil creativity and entrepreneurship.
"Vitally important skills for the future, namely motivation, creativity and problem-solving, have had less emphasis in favour of `teaching to the test'," Reform concludes.
They call for decentralisation of education and for England to follow the example of countries such as Sweden, where the taxpayer funds both independent and state sectors.
`Shifting the Unequal State: From Public Apathy to Personal Capability' is available at www.reform.co.uk.