In England, New Labour's Five Year Strategy for Children and Learners is presented as the most radical for a generation, addressing systemic weaknesses and enabling a new social democratic settlement to secure education in the public sphere. In this article the authors test these claims against proposals in the Strategy that acknowledge and seek to address the failure of the polity to 'break the link between class and achievement'. The article highlights a number of inherent contradictions in the Strategy and argues that the central proposals of choice and diversity are unlikely to reduce the gap between disadvantage and achievement. The article concludes that until the principles of justice and democracy are restored to a constitutive settlement of education as a public service then the bond of class and inequality will simply be reproduced rather than challenged by education policy.
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