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Wednesday, 27 February, 2002, 00:02 GMT
Tories invite pupils' ideas
Damian Green is re-drawing education policy
Pupils will be invited to tell the Conservatives how schools should be run, in the latest stage of the opposition's review of education policy.

The Shadow Education Secretary Damian Green will hold a series of school forums in which he wants to hear what pupils feel are the important issues in education.

And a website is to be launched which will call upon parents, teachers and pupils to contribute their thoughts on the education system.

Mr Green says that even if messages sent in are not flattering to the Conservatives, the published e-mails will reflect the flavour of contributions.

These initiatives will be launched on Wednesday under the banner of "Better Learning", which is presented as a campaign to "improve standards in education".

The school forums, set to begin on 18 March, will be the latest stage in the Conservatives' policy overhaul after their defeat in last year's general election.

Mr Green says he wants to hear what pupils are saying, looking beyond the limits of the education debates of politicians, pundits and policy makers.

Keeping in touch

"I'm hoping that this might reveal subjects of concern that so far we don't know exist. All politicians need to get out of the cocoon of political life ... and this will help us to keep in touch and open to new ideas," he said.

He also says it is important to hear pupils' perspectives on issues in education.

"What do they think about being taught by non-specialist subject teachers? How do they feel about the value of exams such as GCSEs?"

As well as collecting ideas from pupils, the shadow education secretary sees the school visits as another way of addressing the lack of interest in politics among young people.

Open access

"It is clear to us that young people are hugely alienated from the political process," he says.

Since young people are not joining political parties or attending political meetings, he says politicians need to make as easy as possible for young people to express their ideas.

And he says that the meetings in schools and the website will be a way of improving channels of communication.

Mr Green, who has argued that the Conservatives need to move towards the political centreground, has already taken part in a classroom fact-finding mission.

Earlier this year, he spent time teaching in a secondary school in Wandsworth, in south-west London.

And in a bridge-building exercise with the teachers' unions, he researched the school system in Germany with the assistant secretary of the National Union of Teachers.

See also:

09 Jan 02 | UK Politics
Tory turns teacher for a day
28 Jan 02 | Education
Tories revise schools policy
24 Jan 02 | Education
Green shoots for recovery
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