The Tories, year by year

21st March 1997 at 00:00
1979: Government repeals Act compelling local authorities to reorganise secondary education along comprehensive lines.

January 1980: Mrs Thatcher convinced there should be no difficulty in getting essentials of a core curriculum on the back of an envelope. October: Education Secretary Mark Carlisle accepts single 16-plus exam desirable.

October 1981: Education Secretary Sir Keith Joseph is "intellectually attracted" by vouchers.

October 1982: Sir Keith supports student loans and vouchers for school places.

June 1983: Mrs Thatcher on vouchers: "We simply cannot operate it. The administrative consequences would be colossal."

January 1984: Sir Keith announces "bold and ambitious" scheme to raise school standards with new 16-plus exam, better pupil behaviour and appraisal of poor teachers.

June: Decision to merge O-level and CSE announced.

September: English, craft, design and technology, and maths to be compulsory.

April 1986: Chris Patten, education minister, suggests 50 oversubscribed government-controlled direct-grant schools in inner cities, in an attempt to outflank the vouchers lobby.

October: 20 inner-city technology colleges planned. Education Secretary Kenneth Baker plans to legislate on national curriculum.

February 1987: Baker outlines plans for testing in the basics at 7,9,11 and 14. Manifesto promises a national core curriculum, local management of schools, more parental choice, pilot network of CTCs, grant-maintained schools, and London boroughs able to opt out of the Inner London Education Authority.

June: Baker pledges GM schools won't operate backdoor selection. "A grammar school will remain a grammar school, a comprehensive a comprehensive and a secondary modern a secondary modern."

September 1988: first CTC opens. December: Baker urges modularity in A and AS levels.

March 1989: seven-year-olds to learn poetry by heart.

September: first 18 schools opt out. National curriculum starts.

March 1990: No new school reforms to be introduced by a Conservative government until 1994 at the earliest, promises Education Secretary John MacGregor.

April: Mrs Thatcher bemoans growth of "curriculum monster". All she wanted was English, maths, science and testing in the 3Rs.

October: MacGregor doubles grants to GM schools to encourage mass opt-outs. Voucher scheme announced for school-leavers who want training.

November: Kenneth Clarke, Mrs Thatcher's new Education Secretary, cheerfully tells her he will have nothing to do with her vouchers project.

March 1991: Clarke promises distinctive secondary schools. "I do not intend or expect to return to the old system (grammar schools)."

April: Clarke predicts better pay and status from new teachers' pay review body.

July: John Major announces new technology colleges based on GM schools.

October: FE and sixth-form colleges to be removed from local authority control.

November: Clarke attacks child-centred education; wants whole-class teaching and specialist staff.

March 1992: Manifesto promises GM schools can become grammars or technology colleges. Introduction of the 10-subject curriculum to be completed.

January 1993: Education Secretary John Patten writes: "By 2000 I want most state schools in this country to be centrally funded and running their own affairs."

February: abandons publication of tests in English for 14-year-olds.

April: Sir Ron Dearing asked to review tests after NASUWT wins appeal court case that tests boycott is a legal trade dispute.

August: manifesto pledge on league tables for seven-year-olds is abandoned. Massive U turn on testing and curriculum: only English, maths and science is to be prescribed in detail.

January 1994: Dearing review proposals to cut workload and prevent further changes to national curriculum for five years accepted in full.

March: Patten encourages Conservative councillors to propose grammar schools.

July: Gillian Shephard takes over at the Department for Education. Promptly spends Pounds 30m sorting out tests boycott.

October: Shephard warns of the "unwieldy nature" of vouchers and rules out legislation on nursery education. A week later, John Major promises a "cast iron commitment" to nursery education. There follows a long battle over whether vouchers should underpin this. Major wins.

July 1995: Major merges education and employment departments.

September: Major wants all schools to opt out.

March 1997: More selection dropped from Education Bill when election called.

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