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This paper explores the introduction of market-oriented reforms into school-based education in England and Finland. The contexts into which reforms were introduced differed, with a fully comprehensive system being in place in Finland but not in England; the motives were also different; and different trajectories have since been followed. Whilst there are apparent similarities, with choice and diversity having a high political profile in each country, the policy mix varies: two different models can be discerned, with the Finnish reforms being characterised by more regulatory control in relation to school access and choice, but less in relation to the financing of schools by local authorities. It is argued that the mediating role played by local authorities in jurisdictions with high levels of decentralisation means that the legislative framework needs to be taken into account when examining policy implementation and educational outcomes.