Labour, from 1997 to 2010

During the 1997 General Election, the Labour party mantra was "Education, Education, Education", a reference to their conference slogan. Winning the election returned them to power, but New Labour's political ideology meant that many of the changes introduced by the Conservatives during their time in power remained intact.

They began changing the structure of the school and higher education systems. The following changes took place:
The previous Labour focus on the comprehensive system was shifted to a focus on tailoring education to each child's ability. Critics see this as reminiscent of the original intentions of the Tripartite system.

Grant-maintained status was abolished, with GM schools being given the choice of rejoining the local authority as a maintained community school, or becoming a foundation school.

The Government-run Eleven-Plus exam selection exam has now been abolished in the UK, and no longer do all children sit for it as used to be the case. However, voluntary selection tests are still conducted in certain areas of the UK, where some of the original grammar schools have been retained. These areas include: Northern Ireland and some English counties and districts including Devon, Dorset, Kent, Buckinghamshire, Essex, Birmingham, Trafford, Wiltshire, North Yorkshire, Calderdale, Kirklees, Wirral, Warwickshire, Gloucestershire, Lincolnshire and some London boroughs such as Bexley, Kingston-upon-Thames and Redbridge. There have been various so far unsuccessful attempts by campaigners to abolish all remaining grammar schools. The remaining grammar schools are now thus still selective, typically taking the top 10-25% of those from the local catchment area. Some of the still-existing grammar schools in the United Kingdom can trace their history back to earlier than the sixteenth century.
Labour expanded a policy started by the Conservatives of creating specialist schools. This new type of secondary school teaches the National Curriculum subjects plus a few specialist branches of knowledge (e.g. business studies) not found in most other schools. These schools are allowed to select 10% of their pupils.
Numbers: In 1997 there were 196 of these schools. In August 2002 there were 1000. By 2006 the plan is to have 2000, and the goal is to make all secondary schools specialist eventually.

The Beacon Schools programme was established in England in 1998. Its aim was to identify high performing schools, in order to help them form partnerships with each other and to provide examples of effective practice for other schools. The programme was replaced in August 2005 with more broadly based programmes; the Leading Edge Partnership programme (for secondary schools) and Primary Strategy Learning Networks (PSLNs) (at the primary level).

A new grade of Advanced Skills Teacher was created, with the intention that highly skilled teachers would be paid more if they accepted new posts with outreach duties beyond their own schools.

City Academies were introduced. These are new schools, built on the site of, or taking over from existing failing schools. A city academy is an independent school within the state system. It is outside the control of the local education authority and set up with substantial funding from interested third parties, which might be businesses, charities or private individuals.

Education Action Zones were introduced, which are deprived areas run by an action forum of people within that area with the intention of making that area's schools better.

Vocational qualifications were renamed/restructured as follows:
GNVQs became Vocational GCSEs and AVCEs.
NVQs scope expanded so that a degree-equivalent NVQ was possible.
The New Deal was introduced, which made advisors available to long-term unemployed (in the UK this is defined as being unemployed for more than 6 months) to give help and money to those who want to go back into Education.
Introduced Literacy and Numeracy Hours into schools, and set targets for literacy and numeracy.
Set Truancy targets.
Set a maximum class size of 30 for 5-7 year olds.
Introduced the EMA, (Education Maintenance Allowance), which is paid to those between 16 and 18 as an enticement to remain in full-time education and get A-Levels/AVCEs.
A Performance Threshold was introduced in 2000 to allow experienced teachers access to higher rates of pay on meeting a set of performance standards, including a standard of pupil attainment. The performance-related pay changes have been bitterly opposed by teaching unions, most notably the National Union of Teachers which challenged the Threshold scheme by legal action.
Introduced Curriculum 2000, which reformed the Further Education system into the current structure of AS levels, A2 levels and Key Skills.
Abolished the Assisted Places Scheme.
A report was commissioned, led by the former chief-inspector of schools, Mike Tomlinson, into reform of the curriculum and qualifications structure for 14- to 19-year-olds. The report was published on October 18, 2004 and recommended the introduction of a diploma that would bring together both vocational and academic qualifications and ensure that all pupils had a basic set of core skills. It is proposed that the current qualifications would evolve into this diploma over the next decade, whether the government will follow the recommendations is yet to be seen -- the Conservative Party have already introduced alternative proposals to return to norm-referencing in A-levels rather than the current system of criterion-referencing.
In 2003 a green paper entitled Every Child Matters was published. It built on existing plans to strengthen children's services and focused on four key areas:
Increasing the focus on supporting families and carers as the most critical influence on children's lives
Ensuring necessary intervention takes place before children reach crisis point and protecting children from falling through the net
Addressing the underlying problems identified in the report into the death of Victoria Climbié - weak accountability and poor integration
Ensuring that the people working with children are valued, rewarded and trained

The green paper prompted a debate about services for children, young people and families resulting in a consultation with those working in children's services, and with parents, children and young people. The Government published Every Child Matters: the Next Steps in November 2004, and passed the Children Act 2004, providing the legislative spine for developing more effective and accessible services focused around the needs of children, young people and families.

In January 2007 Education Secretary Alan Johnson announced plans to extend the school leaving age in England to eighteen by 2013. This would raise the leaving age for the first time since the last raise in 1972, when compulsory education was extended until sixteen. This change will include training such as apprenticeships and work based training rather than exclusively offering continued academic learning.

Reports were published in November 2006 to suggest that England's Education Secretary Alan Johnson was exploring ways to raise the school leaving age in England and Wales to 18, pointing to the decline in unskilled jobs and the need for young people to be equipped for modern day employment. Such proposals are expected to become effective from 2013 onwards.