Thursday, April 22, 1999 Published at 15:25 GMT 16:25 UK
Labour fails in Lib Dem test
Class sizes 'have increased since Labour came to power'
Labour's education policies "could do better", according to a half-term school report published by the Liberal Democrats.
The report was unveiled in London by the Lib Dems' education spokesman, Don Foster, as part of the party's campaign for May's local government elections.
Higher class sizes, lower education spending, more unqualified teachers and less teacher recruitment were all highlighted as areas where Labour had failed to deliver.
He advised ministers to "spend more time reflecting on what they need to do".
Reducing class sizes was a key Labour pledge before the general election but two years later they were higher than in 1997, he said.
"Secondary school class sizes are at the highest level they have been for 20 years...education, education, education is not backed up by resources, resource, resources."
Spending on education in the first year of the Labour government fell by £53 per primary school pupil and £40 per secondary school pupil, said Mr Foster. In the following year, it fell by £44m.
There was a crisis in the classroom with fewer people coming forward to train as teachers, said Mr Foster.
Many schools, especially in London, were dependent on backpacker teachers from abroad, he claimed.
Mr Foster said he would have liked to have given the Conservatives a half term report but they had failed to hand in any work and had spent all their time fighting
But a Labour spokesman accused the Lib Dems of misleading voters. "Their figures on spending relate to the last Tory budget," he said.
"The fact is education spending rose by £1bn in Labour's first education budget for England, and will rise over the next three years by £16bn in England.
"Class sizes are falling in primary schools for the first time in 10 years and Labour is delivering on each and every education promise made to the electorate."
The Liberal Democrats are defending 500 seats gained in the local government elections in 1995.
Nick Harvey, who is head of Lib Dem campaigns, stressed the importance of this year's elections as the "biggest in the cycle of by-elections and also a halfway point".
He admitted that the conflict in Kosovo may have overshadowed media interest in them, but insisted there was a great deal of interest at local level.