The principal ideological thrust of the 1988 Education Reform Act (ERA) is that market forces can be applied as well to the education system as to any other site of production. The view we take here is that the Bill proposed far reaching and potentially damaging changes both to the educational system and to democracy itself. The ideological and the substantive content of the Bill, and the responses which were hurriedly produced, and the subsequent Act which studiously ignored them, have been subjected to a massive amount of scrutiny in recent months. We want to focus here less on the content of the Act than upon some aspects of the background to its production, particularly on the jockeying for rhetorical dominance by Government ‘experts’ and the media which has helped create the conditions for it. What we argue is that ERA is merely the culmination of what has been a long and often bitte, battle for control over the labour process of teaching, centrally over who is to define what is to count as valid educational knowledge, and how it is to be taught and assessed, with direct consequences for teachers as workers.