A good place to start…


Panorama of site at Clipstone Colliery

© Copyright: Photographer Ian Grant. Reproduced with permission.



This introductory essay assumes that public education is a commons in the East Midlands in England and that we can reconstruct it.

What do we know?

Firstly, we know that:

  1. a commons is a resource to which a community has free access [1]
  2. social goods can be defined, after Roth, as “inclusive (non-excludable); free; universally accessible; not for sale; not for privatization; and belonging to a commons” [2].

Secondly, then, we know that people use public education in the East Midlands in a complex variety of ways including, for example, their use of social goods belonging to it, namely:

  • part-time voluntary pre-school education at nursery schools (ages 3-4)
  • full-time compulsory education at primary schools (ages 4 or 5-11), secondary schools (ages 11-16), and special schools (ages 4 or 5-16)
  • full-time post-compulsory education at schools and sixth form colleges (ages 16-18); and further education


Thirdly, we also know that public education in the East Midlands is being depleted as a result of funding cuts [4] and that free access to higher education is no longer available since it was abandoned in 1998 with the introduction of tuition fees [5].

Why do we care?

Moon has suggested that there are two different types of social worlds – those in which we can have a common good and those in which we can’t [6]. People who care about public education do so because they recognize its value. Hence they prefer the former type and have therefore developed rules and norms to prevent its depletion. For example:

  • the Education Act, 1944 [7] guaranteed free education to every child aged 5-14 and established norms regarding class sizes, pupil:staff ratios, curriculum content, etc.
  • the Robbins Principle ruled that university places “should be available to all who were qualified for them by ability and attainment” [8].

The depletion of public education in the East Midlands, however, represents a preference for the latter type. Unfortunately, the regional campaigns by parent-led organizations [9] and by students [10] have failed to prevent the continuing depletion.

Thus this essay argues that public education in the East Midlands requires the most radical contribution.

What can we do?

Butler has warned that “legislation can do little more than pave the way for reform” [11]. What Butler did not anticipate, however, was that the Education Act, 1944 would be sabotaged by the Education Reform Act, 1988 [12], which effectively began the depletion of public education.

Therefore, the most radical contribution to public education in the East Midlands is to advocate universal access [13].

If this advocacy is accepted then its impact will be far-reaching. For example, universal access to public education in the East Midlands will mean that we can provide free access to the following social goods:

  • pre-school
  • primary, secondary and tertiary phases
  • higher education (which would be returned to the commons)
  • other opportunities for learning throughout life.

Such a model of educational reconstruction will also set an example for others.

Thus this essay affirms its premises and shares Roth’s conclusion that “we can change (the world) for the better, based on education, based on concern, and based on values that we share” [14].

We can also discuss it further here.


1 Fellows, N. (2017) What are social goods? What is the commons?

2 Wesleyan University (2014) Introduction: Social Good and Tragedy of the Commons

3 Wikipedia (2017) Lists of schools in England: East Midlands

4 School Cuts (2017) School Cuts

5 Wikipedia (2017) Tuition fees in the United Kingdom

6 Wesleyan University (2014) Genealogy of the Idea of Social Good 

7 Her Majesty’s Government (1944) Education Act, 1944

8 Her Majesty’s Government (1963) The Robbins Report

9 Fair Funding For All Schools (2017) Fair Funding For All Schools

10 National Union of Students (2017) Student funding: email your MP

11 Her Majesty’s Government (1943) Educational Reconstruction 

12 Her Majesty’s Government (1988) Education Reform Act, 1988

13 Wikipedia (2017) Universal access to education

14 Wesleyan University (2014) Listening to the Local and Practical Idealism