Claims are often made in British education about the extent to which policy reforms have been ‘borrowed’ from overseas. Based on interviews with senior civil servants and HMI, this paper addresses the extent to which such claims apply to central government educational policy‐making at school level in England between 1985 and 1995. This was a period which saw the collapse of traditional ‘partnership’ modes of educational reform (central and local government, schools, teachers, educationists), which was replaced by major centrally directed legislation from Kenneth Baker’s 1988 Education Reform Act onwards. It was also a period in which the OECD promoted the use of educational ‘performance indicators’ to facilitate cross‐national comparisons of educational quality. The paper finds that, while overseas developments were frequently cited during this period of radical legislative change, these were largely convenient examples from countries with particular ideological closeness to the English climate, promoted by ‘New Right’ think tanks, to lend legitimacy to what were primarily ‘home grown’ policy solutions. Overall, their effect was marginal. Reforms in England took place both prior to and in parallel with similar reforms elsewhere; hence examples from overseas were more often used to confirm developments in England rather than to initiate them
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