BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific
BBCi NEWS   SPORT   WEATHER   WORLD SERVICE   A-Z INDEX     

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: UK: Education  
News Front Page
Africa
Americas
Asia-Pacific
Europe
Middle East
South Asia
UK
England
N Ireland
Scotland
Wales
Politics
Education
Business
Entertainment
Science/Nature
Technology
Health
-------------
Talking Point
-------------
Country Profiles
In Depth
-------------
Programmes
-------------
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
SERVICES
-------------
EDITIONS
Tuesday, 1 October, 2002, 16:34 GMT 17:34 UK
Blair's sympathy over exams fiasco
classroom
Mr Blair wants to see a wide range of schools
The Prime Minister, Tony Blair, has expressed his sympathy for those students caught up in the A-level grading controversy.

In his speech to the Labour Party conference in Blackpool on Tuesday, Mr Blair said the government was "totally committed" to helping those students.

Tony Blair
Mr Blair said he understood students' anxiety
"I understand the anxiety of students affected by the marking down of their A-levels," he said.

But Mr Blair was keen to restore faith in the education system.

He said the school system in Britain was judged to be in the top eight in the world, beating France and Germany, and UK universities were "widely regarded" as the best in Europe.

Mr Blair went on to spell out his view that the "one-size-fits-all" approach to education was a thing of the past.

Equality

"We need to move to the post-comprehensive era, where schools keep the comprehensive principle of equality of opportunity, but where we open up the system to new and different ways of education, built round the needs of the individual child.


Reform is the road to social justice, not its denial

Tony Blair
"Why shouldn't there be a range of schools for parents to choose from? From specialist schools to the new city academies, from faith schools to sixth forms and sixth form colleges offering excellent routes into skilled employment?

"Why shouldn't good schools expand or take over failing schools or form federations?

"Why shouldn't classroom assistants and IT specialists, in time, be every bit as important as teachers?"

And there was no reason, said Mr Blair, why a talented teacher who wanted to stay in the classroom should not earn as much as a head of department.

Social justice

The prime minister stressed the need for social reform in education.

"The child in a school where barely any students take A-levels, where only 20% get good GCSEs and where the majority know they will just end up as one of the seven million British adults who can't read or write properly.

"The only difference between that child and mine is that one had a chance in life and the other had none.

"Reform is the road to social justice, not its denial," said Mr Blair.

The prime minister also reiterated the government's tough stance on those people who assault teachers or school support staff.

Such individuals would be sent to jail, he stressed.

Wary unions

Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Mr Blair argues for parents to have a choice of school."

"What parents want is for their child to be able to get a good education," said McAvoy.

"It's no good having a range of different types of schools when they are nowhere near their child.

"They are creating a two-tier education system, with some parents being able to get their children into them and get access to high levels of provision and other parents, because they live in the wrong area, not being able to."

Eamonn O'Kane, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters Union of Women Teachers said: "Tony Blair's description of a post-comprehensive system may raise more questions than it answers."

"The prime minister rightly extols equality of opportunity, which is the bedrock of the comprehensive system, but there is a fear that the wide range of schools he calls for could result in a narrowing of that equality of opportunity."

 WATCH/LISTEN
 ON THIS STORY
Prime Minister Tony Blair
"Why shouldn't there be a range of schools for parents to choose from"

Key stories

Background

FEATURES

INTERACTIVE

AUDIO VIDEO
See also:

30 Sep 02 | Education
05 Sep 01 | Education
19 Jun 01 | Education
Links to more Education stories are at the foot of the page.


E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more Education stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |
Programmes