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ECPR Standing Group on the European Union 10th Biennial Conference LUISS, Rome

Political Parties and School Choice: Ideational Foundations of Policy Reforms in England and Germany

Comparative Politics
Party Manifestos
Public Policy
Policy Change
Rita Nikolai
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Rita Nikolai
Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin
Anne West
London School of Economics and Political Science

In most OECD countries, schooling in primary and secondary education is provided by public institutions. Nevertheless, in the last few years in many OECD-countries we have seen a boom in ‘private’ schools and as well new arrangements for financing private schools. The private school landscape in England and Germany is undergoing a radical transformation. Since 2010, England has seen a rapid expansion of government-dependent academies run by private, not-for-profit trusts registered as companies and funded directly by central government. Since the 2000s, Germany has also experienced a significant rebound in private government-dependent schools, in particular at the primary school level in the eastern part of Germany.

This Paper offer an analysis of tracing the policy processes of school choice and funding decisions in England and Germany. Our focus lies on the role of partisan politics in the development of private schools and we examine in detail the ideational foundations of policy positions, preferences and strategies. In our paper we will show that private schooling is a salient issue in political debates in education politics. As ideological features of political parties in education are neither consistent nor static, we will investigate the party preferences reflected in policy documents since the 2000s years in England and Germany. Our focus is on private government-dependent schools, as these types of private schools have experienced the strongest expansion in England and Germany. The paper addresses the following question: What are the differences and similarities between left and conservative parties discourses regarding private schools and how have these discourses evolved over time? We argue that ideas are expressed in policy documents and we therefore examine documents such as party manifestos, parliamentary documents and press releases. We will concentrate on social democrats as left-wing parties and on conservatives as right-wing-parties: in short, New Labour and the Conservatives (Tories) respectively in England and Social Democrats (SPD) and the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) in two Laender of Germany (Berlin/Brandenburg).
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