'The more things change...?': the Thatcher years and educational reform in Scotland

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5 Citations (Scopus)


The period of the Thatcher Government continues to have special
significance for politics and governance in Scotland. In the 11 years of the
Thatcher Government, landmark legislation and reforms affected key areas
of the Scottish society and economy.
Education featured prominently in the Thatcherite agenda in Scotland. In Scotland, the education system’s association with national identity had particular implications for educational policy making and implementation in Scotland under the Thatcher Government.
The distinctiveness of the Scottish education system presented particular problems for a government intent on challenging the social democratic consensus. Opposition to the Thatcher Government, especially its perceived attack on the social democratic underpinnings of the welfare state which included the state schooling system, re-ignited the home rule campaign in Scotland in the late 1980s.
The article examines both key legislation, namely the Education
(Scotland) Act 1981, the School Board (Scotland) Act 1988 and the SelfGoverning
Schools etc. (Scotland) Act 1989, and also key non-legislative
reforms to curriculum and assessment under the Thatcher Government in
the area of public (state) schooling.
The article argues that these reforms continue to influence the educational policy debates in Scotland today.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)181-202
Number of pages22
JournalJournal of Educational Administration and History
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - May 2011
Externally publishedYes


  • Education policy,
  • Thatcher
  • Scotland


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