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Friday, 8 June, 2001, 12:10 GMT 13:10 UK
Labour's plans for schools
Tony Blair, St Olave's
Tony Blair began the election campaign at a school
Raising standards in England's secondary schools will be the focus of the Labour party's second-term plans for education.

This will see a shake-up of the secondary sector, promised by the government as a "modernisation" of the principles of comprehensive education.

In practice this will mean a greater variety in the types of state secondary school - moving away from the "bog standard" model identified by the prime minister's spokesman.

Specialist schools, which will be allowed to select a small proportion of pupils on aptitude, will be greatly increased - with over half of secondary schools set to have specialist status in five years.

These schools have recorded above-average rates of improvements - and the government hopes that this success can be replicated on a wider scale.

In the inner-cities, there will be "city academies", which will be set up in partnership with business and community sponsors.

There will also be an increase in religious schools, with the government arguing that the distinct ethos of these schools contributes to their academic success and popularity with parents.

And there could be an increase in the use of private sector services within the state system - including companies running schools for profit.

Teacher shortage

The regime of targets and testing, which the government has seen as a success in primary schools, will also be further introduced in secondary schools.

By 2006, the government promises that in no school will less than 25% of pupils gain five good GCSEs.

There has been concern that the advances made by pupils in primary school can be lost when they transfer to secondary level - and particular attention will be paid to tackling this "slipping back".

The incoming education secretary will also be under pressure to reverse the long-term difficulties with teacher shortages.

The prospect of pupils being sent home from school because of a lack of staff had threatened to embarrass to the government this winter.

And among the key manifesto pledges is the promise to recruit an extra 10,000 teachers - which will mean further financial inducements and improvements to teachers' working conditions.

The government is about to enter negotiations with the teachers' unions over workload - and one of the first challenges of the new education secretary will be to achieve a settlement with teachers who are demanding a 35-hour week.

All of these schemes - and a continued pursuit of smaller class sizes - will be funded by an increase in spending in education, promised by the prime minister at this election as at the last.

Unlike previous incoming governments, devolution now means that the plans will only apply to schools in England.

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See also:

16 May 01 | Vote2001
Will Labour get more radical?
16 May 01 | Vote2001
Labour manifesto: At-a-glance
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