This paper is concerned with the role of standards and standard setting in shaping the
expansion of post school education in highly unequal society. It draws on an account
of the debates and policies on standards in the UK from the 1980’s to today and the
wider lessons that can be learned from them. It argues that relying on any type of
standards on their own, independently of any consideration of curriculum, pedagogy
and the distribtution of educational resources is doomed to failure. It concludes by
linking the idea of higher stadards for all to Morrow’s concept of ‘epistemic access’.