Kenny, Caroline (2010)
Ph.D. thesis, University of Birmingham.
According to key figures within New Labour, the advent of the knowledge-based economy has ended the “sterile” battle between social justice and economic competitiveness; this now means that it is only through the provision of opportunities for all, achieved through high quality education, that the demands of the two goals can be fulfilled. I investigate the claims made by Blair, Brown and the Education Ministers that social objectives are being reconciled with economic considerations in the Party's approach to education and, in doing so, explore the existence and content of a putative 'New Labour' discourse on education. I highlight the limitations of the existing literature in dealing with issues of discourse, agency and time. I contend that in overlooking questions of discourse and ignoring the potential for differences over time and between actors, the current literature fails to capture the dynamism and complexity of the Government's discourse leading it to reach two inaccurate conclusions about New Labour as well as prohibiting us from gaining a proper sense of whether the Party has been coherent in its discussions of education. Conversely, I set out an alternative view of coherence, proposing discourse as an equivalent unit of analysis to policy and demonstrating sensitivity to differences both over time and between agents. I show that there is not one coherent 'New Labour' discourse on education, but a shared conception that is underpinned by three discourses that appeal to arguments about the knowledge-based economy, opportunity and responsibility. Within this however, are eighteen different arguments the use, meaning and significance of which varies between Blair, Brown and the Education Ministers and, over the three terms between 1997 and 2007.
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