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Here we are at the titular concept of the book, everyone has an opinion about it, newspapers never leave the topic alone, yet there is remarkably little agreement both about what it is and what it ought to be. In 1997, the then prime minister, Tony Blair, famously announced as his three main priorities, ‘education, education and education’, and both before and since that date government policy-makers from both sides of the House of Commons have been assiduous in ensuring that education remains amenable to constant reform, and that its products – the pupils – are minutely tested, surveyed and interrogated to determine what state their education is in, and how it compares with the past.

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