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Last Updated: Tuesday, 5 October, 2004, 09:27 GMT 10:27 UK
Tories promise education 'action'
Father taking daughter to school
The Conservatives say they would create many more school places
The Conservatives are promising parents "action on education" and criticising Labour and Liberal Democrat policies.

In a speech to the Tory conference on Tuesday, education spokesman Tim Collins denounced the "failures of Labour's stewardship".

And he said the Liberal Democrats were "entirely unfit" to run education.

He promised action on discipline, and policies to increase parental choice over school places. The other parties say he is out of touch.

The shadow education secretary claims that since 1997, one in three 11 year olds leaving primary school "have been unable to write properly".

He says a pupil has attacked a teacher "every seven minutes of the school day".

Expansion

And Mr Collins says 12 pages of government paperwork have been landing on every head teacher's desk "every working day of the school year".

He made three specific promises of early action under a Conservative government.

Within the first day, he would "set out plans to give head teachers the power to expel disruptive pupils".

Tim Collins
Labour have had their chance to improve our schools and it hasn't worked
Tim Collins
Within the first week, he would "begin the abolition of the restrictions which stop good schools expanding and new ones opening".

And within a month there would be a Bill "allowing parents to choose the best school for their children".

He says that by creating 600,000 new school places he would offer 100,000 more families the opportunity to send their children to "their first-choice school" by 2010.

He would commit "an extra 15bn a year more for schools".

Mr Collins also said he would also stop the closure of schools for children with special educational needs and would "encourage the creation of faith schools using public funds".

He said the Liberal Democrats were "entirely unfit ever to run education" because they would "scrap all choice", make sex education compulsory for seven year olds and scrap A-levels.

The Conservatives have recently published plans to abolish university tuition fees, raising money for universities instead by offering larger student loans at commercial rates of interest.

Mr Collins added: "I'll get rid of the university access regulator, Labour's Witchfinder General, set up to punish universities who admit middle-class students."

'Ludicrous'

The Education Secretary, Charles Clarke, said Mr Collins needed to run faster to catch up with existing government policy.

Standards were rising, with some 80,000 more 11 year olds able to read and write properly since 1997.

It was "ludicrous" to suggest such a level of misbehaviour. Head teachers already could exclude disruptive pupils but permanent exclusions had fallen.

"We have already slashed the amount of paper landing on head teachers' desks and are moving to a paperless, electronic system," he said.

"And on his three action points - these will already have been delivered by the time the Tories begin to fight the next election."

The government was creating "hundreds of thousands of extra places in schools to improve choice for parents", he said.

'Deception'

The Liberal Democrat education spokesman, Phil Willis, said the Tory proposals "demonstrate a level of deception and cynicism that shows they have abandoned all hope of winning the next election".

He said removing school catchment areas would result in schools choosing children, not parents choosing schools.

"Tim Collins' pledge to allow head teachers to expel unruly pupils hides a cruel deception - will other schools be asked to take these students and if not, where will they go?

"As for the desire to retain A-levels, the Tory Party has reneged on the Tomlinson proposals for 14-19 despite an assurance they would join an all-party consensus."

Later this month the final report is expected from Mike Tomlinson's working party on 14 to 19 education.

Mr Collins said the Conservatives would shortly publish their own ideas to "revitalise" vocational education and adult learning and seek consensus on "more robust, credible" exam reforms.




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