Introduction The New Labour party that took office in 1997 promised a lot of radical changes to systems and structures in the UK. When they took over power, they implemented many of their promises and this included cost-cutting and targeting. Education was one of the areas that the Labour Party's policies affected…
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As these debates go on, it is not very clear how well early childhood development and childhood education has been affected by the policies of the Labour Party. This paper would examine the position of children, parents and educators in the policy framework of the New Labour Party after it took office between 1997 and 2007 and the Coalition Government that ruled till 2010. In order to undertake the research, the paper would first contextualise education and care policy and define the core and fundamental concepts relating to stakeholders in education policy. The main body of the essay would examine the early years education and care policy development before 1997 and deduce the main limitations and shortcomings of the existing system. The research would proceed to examine the changes of the New Labour party and the coalition government and produce an evaluation and synthesis of the policies they put in place in relation to childhood and education. The policies would be critiqued and analysed in-depth and the strengths and weaknesses of the systems would be identified and examined. Contextualisation of Education and Child Care Policy This section would examine the very essence of education policy and how it affects governments and fundamental stakeholders in the British society. It would involve the examination of the concept of policy and how it affects life in society. “Policy is a statement by government of what it intends to do such as law, regulation, ruling, decision or a combination of these. The lack of such statements may also by an implicit statement” (Birkland, 2009: p9). This means that policy involves all the plans and the aspirations of a government that forms the blueprint of what they intend to do during their tenure in office. There is also another view of policy. This is a more general view of policy which is “... an intentional course of action followed by a government institution or official for resolving an issue of public concern” (Eisener, 2011: p4). In other words, policy is more of a conscious and direct approach that guides institutions in order to attain some ends that is relevant to the society as a whole. Education policy is a branch of social policy that nations use to guide their actions and their activities when they win power (Birkland, 2009). Most scholars identify that educational policy and child care policies adopted by governments are social in nature because it is strongly linked to the family structure and other social systems in the nation (Clark and Harris, 2011; New and Cochran, 2007). This means that if the social structures change, child care and basic education policy would need to be changed to ensure that the government provides the best kind of support for children in order to reflect the realities in the nation in question. The changes in parenting and social structures suggest “the need of a comprehensive national family policy of which parents are a crucial component” (Clark and Harris, 2011: p306). In a critique of the structure of educational policy and child care policy, Clark and Harris (2011) go on to identify four main classes of stakeholders which include: 1. Parents 2. Caregivers 3. Directors 4. Policy-makers These three stakeholders have interests in communication and interaction in order to form consensus on some
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