Academies and Free Schools in England: A History and Philosophy of The Gove Act, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Academies and Free Schools in England

A History and Philosophy of The Gove Act, 1st Edition

By Adrian Hilton


264 pages

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Hardback: 9781138603523
pub: 2018-08-06
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pub: 2018-08-06
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Academies and Free Schools in England argues that there is a high degree of philosophical consensus and historical continuity on the policy of ‘academisation’ across the main political parties in England. It attempts to make sense of what are all essentially free schools by interviewing the architects of policy and their closest advisors, analysing the extent to which they invoke historical expressions of conservatism and/or liberalism in their articulation of that convergence.

The book offers a unique insight into educational policy-making during the Conservative/Liberal-Democrat coalition era (2010-2015), and an in-depth analysis of the nature of liberty as it relates to state education in England. Providing original interview transcripts of the key reformers, and new accounts of a sometimes contentious history, Hilton identifies an elite ‘policy community’, connected by educational background, moral-religious frameworks, life experiences and shared networks of common ideology.

Academies and Free Schools in England will be vital reading to academics and researchers in the field of education and education policy. It will also be of great interest to school governors, business leaders, political philosophers and those involved and interested in free schools.


"Adrian Hilton provides us with fascinating insights into the thinking behind what has been the most radical intervention in the governance of schooling since the 1944 Education Act, the creation of academies and free schools. In getting close to members of the policy elite, from different parts of the political spectrum, we see how the English state effectively works in a curiously consensual way even in a context where there is considerable professional and parental opposition. Hilton underpins his analysis with sharp philosophical analyses and locates the policy developments within a clear historical frame."

Ian Menter, Emeritus Professor of Teacher Education, University of Oxford. Former President of the British Educational Research Association.

"This is a profound and fascinating study of the philosophy behind all the changes in schools since the 1988 Act which introduced parental choice and competition into education. It traces Free Schools back to the City Technology Colleges of the 1980s and forward to the University Technical Colleges of today. It is a must-read for anyone interested in education reform. We must be prepared for even more change in the Fourth Industrial Revolution."

The Rt Hon Lord Baker of Dorking CH.

"A very timely review of what continues to be an evolving policy. The original 1988 changes (including a comprehensive national curriculum) were positive moves to ensure that excellent school leadership was placed at the forefront of school improvement. This book traces the changes, many of which I was able to contribute to, and the twists and turns of policies which often set out with the best intentions and too often ended up with perverse outcomes. Academies intended to embrace their family of schools and the wider community were, in the end, dubbed by the previous Chief Inspector as a ‘atomised and fragmented landscape’. Moves to restore some coherence, through the development of multi-academy trusts, complete a picture of continuing change. This book enables us to see the importance of returning to an emphasis on standards and what happens in the classroom rather than the boardroom."

The Rt Hon Lord Blunkett.

"Adrian Hilton provides an intellectually challenging analysis of contemporary schooling which deserves a wide academic and general readership. In an educational research context dominated by empirical evidence, it is rare to find so sustained a critique using the methods of historical and philosophical enquiry. Adrian’s book is in itself an education."

Dr Liam Gearon, Senior Research Fellow, Harris Manchester College, and Associate Professor, Department of Education, University of Oxford

Table of Contents

Preface Chapter 1: Academies and Free Schools in political context Chapter 2: Academies and Free Schools in philosophical context Chapter 3: A history of free schools Chapter 4: A philosophy of free schools Chapter 5: Interviewing the elite educational ‘policy community’ Chapter 6: The elite education of the free-school elites Chapter 7: Elite apprehensions of free-school history Chapter 8: Elite conceptions of free-school philosophy Chapter 9: The elite assurance of educational freedom References

About the Author

Dr Adrian Hilton is a lecturer in Political Philosophy and Education. He has been an advisor to ministers and shadow ministers, and is Chairman of the Academic Council of the Margaret Thatcher Centre.

About the Series

Routledge Research in Education Policy and Politics

The Routledge Research in Education Policy and Politics series aims to enhance our understanding of key challenges and facilitate on-going academic debate within the influential and growing field of Education Policy and Politics.


Please send inquiries or proposals for this series to one of the following:

Emilie Coin: [email protected] – Editor, UK, Europe, Africa, and the Middle East

Elsbeth Wright: [email protected] – Editor, North & South America

Vilija Stephens: [email protected] – Editor, Australia & New Zealand

Katie Peace: [email protected] – Publisher, Asia

Learn more…

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