This paper explores the new conditions and ideational framework within which post‐compulsory education and training is placed in England and Wales. It does so by examining the impact of ideas derived from post‐Fordist analyses and stakeholding theory as well as the arguments put forward by left modernizers. It seeks to consider the limits and possibilities that surround these ideas which have provided a new inflection or accenting of educational policy. This accenting connects a concern with social inclusion and cohesion to global competitiveness. The paper concludes by suggesting that the project of left modernizers is seriously compromised through its entrapment within a capitalist logic, but that nevertheless the potential for struggle remains within the contradictions of the discourse and rhetoric surrounding educational policy.