Page last updated at 09:54 GMT, Sunday, 14 September 2008 10:54 UK

Scrap curriculum, argue Lib Dems

Schoolchildren
The party says a slimmed-down, Swedish-style curriculum is needed

The Liberal Democrats have outlined plans to scrap England's national curriculum and "close the performance gap between rich and poor pupils".

Education spokesman David Laws told the party's conference that Labour treated schools like the last century's "great nationalised industries".

He called for the 635-page curriculum to be replaced with a 21-page document.

Mr Laws also said funding for a million poorer children should be at the same levels as for those in private schools.

Some of the 20bn the party had identified in public sector savings would be spent on a pupil premium, a policy adopted at last year's conference, he added.

'Grovelling letter'

The premium would follow poorer children, in the first instance those who are eligible for free school meals, and be paid directly to the school.

The party says this will cost 2.5bn, and will raise the funding of a million children to levels found in the private sector.

Mr Laws said: "A society that can look at a child at age seven and know he or she is condemned to failure is neither liberal, nor free, nor fair.

"It should be the central mission of the Liberal democrats to end this great injustice."

He added: "No school should be directly accountable to ministers.

"And no school should ever again have to write a grovelling letter to the secretary of state, seeking his permission to be creative...

"The 635 pages of the nationalised curriculum should go in the shredder.

"Let's replace it with something closer to the 21 pages that seem to do the job in places like Sweden."

'Father first'

Earlier, party leader Nick Clegg told the Sunday Times he might send his children to private schools because of concerns over secondary schooling.

"I am a father before a politician," he told the paper.

Mr Clegg added: "I am not holding my children's future and education hostage to a game of political football."

He also said he would not rule out "dipping into his pocket" for his two sons.

Meanwhile, Lib Dem home affairs spokesman Chris Huhne said he wanted more underperforming police officers to lose their jobs, and renewed his call for an end to the "job-for-life" culture in the police force.

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