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EDITIONS
Blair years Monday, 6 May, 2002, 08:37 GMT 09:37 UK
Labour's 1997 pledges: Education
The following page details Labour's activity in government on education, based on what it committed itself to in the manifesto. Some pledges have been omitted for the sake of brevity. No judgement has been made to the inherent value of the pledge, but important criticisms are included where applicable.

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WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"Over the course of a five-year Parliament we will raise the proportion of national income spent on education."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
Subject to decisions by the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly, education spending is projected to be rise to 5.3 per cent by 2003-04, compared with 4.7 per cent in 1996-97.

WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will reduce class sizes for five, six and seven year-olds to 30 or under, by phasing out the assisted places scheme..."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
In September 2001 there were 63,300 infant classes taught by one teacher. Of these, only 68 classes - 0.1% of the total - included more than 30 pupils in circumstances which break the rules.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will use the money saved by scrapping nursery vouchers to guarantee places for four year-olds ... we will set targets for universal provision for three year-olds whose parents want it."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
Labour changed the way nurseries are funded and there has been a free place for almost all of the 614,900 four-year-olds in the UK since September 1998. In practice the small gap between the number of places and the number of children does not matter as many parents choose alternative provision.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will invite selected local authorities to pilot early excellence centres combining education and care for the under-fives."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
Labour established "Early Years Development Partnerships" in 1997. The teams brought together by local education authorities, map out and develop early education and childcare services for their area.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We have agreed with British Telecom and the cable companies that they will wire up schools, libraries, colleges and hospitals to the information superhighway free of charge. We have also secured agreement to make access charges as low as possible."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE NOT MET
This remains one of the Labour government's most controversial early moves. Announced by Tony Blair in 1996, it caught headlines and the public's growing early interest in the internet without making clear what it meant. Working on the most basic interpretation of the pledge, internet access, the government has fallen short. According to the latest figures, 97% of schools have internet access, 100% of colleges and 90% of NHS Trusts. But only 67% of Public Libraries have access.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"To attack under-achievement in urban areas, we have developed a new scheme with the Premier League. In partnerships between central government, local government and football clubs, study support centres will be set up at Premier League grounds for the benefit of local children..."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The government launched "Playing for Success" in 1997. Almost 50 clubs are currently running centres or committed to opening one. Pilots for other sports began in summer 2000.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We plan a National Grid for Learning [on the internet] ... which will bring to teachers up-to-date materials to enhance their skills, and to children high-quality educational materials."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The NGfL was created in 1998 as a government-funded "gateway to educational resources on the Internet".
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"For those failing schools unable to improve, ministers will order a 'fresh start' - close the school and start afresh on the same site."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The Fresh Start policy appeared in the 1997 White Paper Excellence in Schools and first schools closed and relaunched under the policy opened their gates in September 1998. There are currently 25 schools under the programme, 15 of which are secondary.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We must recognise the three 'r's for what they are - building blocks of all learning that must be taught better. We will achieve this by ... piloting literacy summer schools"
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
In 2001 the government earmarked 22m for summer schemes aimed at helping children who had failed to reach national literacy and numeracy levels by the end of their primary education.
CRITICISMS AND QUALIFICATIONS
Critics of the scheme say that some of the work has been pitched at too low a level, meaning that some of the children may see their literacy deteriorate while on the course, even if their self-esteem rises.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will encourage the use of the most effective teaching methods, including phonics for reading and whole class interactive teaching for maths."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
Phonics, the relationship between the sound and spelling of words, has been a central part of the national literacy since 1997.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
15. "There will be education action zones to attack low standards by recruiting the best teachers and head teachers to under-achieving schools."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
There are now 99 zones which aim to raise standards, the first being established in September 1998. The scheme is linked to the Excellence in Cities initiative.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"There will be more parent governors and, for the first time, parent representatives on LEAs."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The Government said in its consultation on school governing bodies that it had "already increased the number of parents on school governing bodies" and parents were given the right to sit on local education authorities in 2000 legislation.
CRITICISMS AND QUALIFICATIONS
The statement cannot be easily verified because there are no central figures on parent representation. Critics say planned reforms of the school governor system may lead to further change.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"An independent standing committee will continue to advise us on the implementation of our plans [for new technology in schools]."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE NOT MET
In opposition, Labour used the independent Stevenson Committee to advise it on information technology policy for education. The committee did not continue its work after it published its report.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"Public/private partnerships will improve the condition of school buildings."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
In as much as the budget for school building has risen from 683m in 1996/97 to more than 2bn this year. It is set to reach 3.5bn by 2004.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"Exclusion or suspension may sometimes be necessary. We will pilot pupil referral units [for these pupils].
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
Pupil Referral Units (PRUs) are a type of school run by a local education authority to educate children excluded from mainstream schools. There are nearly 300 PRUs in England.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will improve teacher training, and ensure that all teachers have an induction year when they first qualify, to ensure their suitability for teaching."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The Government has introduced national skill tests for all trainee teachers. Teachers leaving college now spend their first year classed as a "newly qualified teacher" where, in theory, they receive further training.
CRITICISMS AND QUALIFICATIONS
Critics of the government's education policy say it is difficult to tell whether or not the new system has improved teacher training to any noticeable degree.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will create a new grade of teachers to recognise the best."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
An Advanced Skills Teacher (AST) is a teacher who achieves the very highest standards of classroom practice and who is paid to share his or her skills and experience with other teachers. Part of the idea behind the grade is to provide teachers who do not want to become managers with an alternative career path.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will establish mandatory qualifications for the post [of Headteacher]..."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE NOT MET
Three training programmes are currently administered by the National College for School Leadership. The government says that one of these courses will become mandatory but consultations are continuing.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"The improvement and expansion needed [in higher education] cannot be funded out of general taxation. The costs of student maintenance should be repaid by graduates on an income-related basis... "
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The government reformed student maintenance funding, changing the terms of repayment and privatising some of the debt.
CRITICISMS AND QUALIFICATIONS
The issue remains complicated and controversial because of the effects of devolution. Students in Scotland do not have to pay tuition fees at its universities; but students from other parts of the UK studying there do. The Northern Ireland Assembly has also considered changing its system.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"Our new University for Industry, collaborating with the Open University, will bring new opportunities to adults seeking to develop their potential."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The University for Industry, operating under the brand name of Learn Direct, began a national roll-out of its operations on 25 October 2000.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"In schools and colleges, we support broader A-levels and upgraded vocational qualifications, underpinned by rigorous standards and key skills."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The 14-19 curriculum is being greatly expanded. GNVQs are to become vocational A-Levels. The Government has also enhanced the use and scope of AS-Levels - though with some controversy.
WHAT THE MANIFESTO SAID:
"We will invest public money for training in Individual Learning Accounts which [people] can then use to gain the skills they want..."
CONCLUSION: PLEDGE MET
The ILA programme was set up with a fanfare in September 2000 and aimed to provide people aged 19 or over with up to 80% of the costs of a training scheme of their choosing. It was aimed at groups including mothers wishing to return to work.
CRITICISMS AND QUALIFICATIONS
In November 2001 the scheme was suspended in England amid revelations that the programme was open to fraud. The government says that it is committed to reintroducing a scheme, but not until it has worked out what went wrong.

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