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The publication by Michael Gove of the Coalition Government’s 2010 Education Bill prompted a group of long-established organisations came together to oppose its principles and proposals. They had in common a commitment to a comprehensive, state-funded, democratically-accountable education system and a clear realisation that this was under threat. In August 2011, they jointly published the Canterbury House Statement which opposed privatisation of the school system.

They further agreed to convene a conference under the title “Caught in the Act - a conference to get to grips with Michael Gove’s new Education Act” which set out to identify the nature of the threat in detail. The conference was highly successful and gave the group the basis for a way forward.

The rapid pace of change was causing an already weakened education system to fragment further in terms of access to schooling, the curriculum and the relationships of communities with their schools.

By the summer of 2012, it was clear that more than a critique of the Coalition’s plans was required, so the theme of the November 2012 conference was set as “Picking up the Pieces”. Speakers were chosen not only to highlight the incoherence of the Coalition Government’s plans, but how to undo the damage through legislation.

Now, the alliance consulted more widely on what a good school system needed to provide and how it related to wider society. This major piece of work was entitled “A Better Future for Our Schools” and its first version was presented at a meeting at the House of Commons in June 2013.  It was very well received and widely supported, including by virtually all the trade unions with an involvement in public education.

From this point onwards, there was a clear consensus not only on the issues to be tackled by a reforming government but what needed to be put in place. “A Better Future (updated)” was further developed and expanded in 2014.

As the 2015 General Election approached, although it was clear that the campaign would be hard-fought, education did not seem to be considered a key issue by any of the main political parties. As a result, the alliance focused on a simpler, 7-point ‘manifesto’ and publishing a short leaflet entitled “Improving Schools”.

The subsequent election of a Conservative government and the turbulent EU referendum eventually resulted in an apparent scaling back of ambitions regarding education, with lack of funding and a continuing covert push for further selection being the main issues. In 2016 Reclaiming Education focused on two key messages - celebrating the 50th anniversary of comprehensive education and opposing a return to selection.

However, Labour’s popular 2017 General Election with its promise of a National Education Service has proved to be the most interesting and potentially significant idea in many years and has provided the main focus for the alliance’s recent work. The alliance presented its first thought to a conference on 11th November 2017 as “What should a National Education Service mean?”.

Current work in progress is “An Education Programme for Labour”.