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Last Updated: Tuesday, 10 May, 2005, 16:31 GMT 17:31 UK
Cameron is Tory education chief
David Cameron
David Cameron says he wants to "get the basics right" in schools
David Cameron has been appointed as shadow education secretary.

The 38-year-old MP for Witney, who served as the Conservatives' policy co-ordinator, says schools should "get the basics right".

"We need good discipline in schools so that teachers can teach and children can learn," said Mr Cameron.

Before the election, he had promised "practical responses to people's needs, rather than some ideological blueprint".

This mainstream, modernising, approach has characterised the high-flying political career of the incoming Conservative spokesman on education.

'Major reforms'

Writing in the Guardian before the general election, he emphasised that the Conservative party had to be socially inclusive and ready to commit itself to protecting public services.

"While all our answers are rooted in Conservative values, they are far from being predictable. On public services we believe that major reforms are needed, but we also accept that quality costs money, which is why we are committed to matching Labour's spending plans," he wrote.

And in an interview last autumn he had asserted the need for a broad church approach.

"The Conservative party has got to be for everyone: old, young, black, white, straight, gay, urban, rural. We are a national party, we're a party for everybody; and it's important that we show that in the way we talk and the way we behave."

Having attended Eton College and Oxford University, Mr Cameron's political career has been chronicled in his own writing, including a regular and often self-deprecating column for the Guardian's website.

This included the observation on a previous promotion last year that: "Politicians are just like anyone else that gets promoted: we worry deeply about being found out as too unimaginative, too idle or just too stupid to do the job we've just been given."

Asked before the election about the single piece of legislation he would most like to enact, he answered "Giving schools freedom from Whitehall and LEA control".

Now in a position to set out Conservative education policy, Mr Cameron will have to find ways to get across a message that his party can extend parental choice without eroding state school funding.

'Proudest achievement'

The former incumbent, Tim Collins, who lost his seat in the election, had admitted that the party's original voucher scheme, offering state funding for private school places, had confused rather than enthused the public.

And the revised version, which avoided mentioning vouchers, had been attacked by Labour and the Liberal Democrats as cutting funding for state schools.

The party's proposal to replace tuition fees with higher charges on loans was also somewhat upstaged by the Liberal Democrats' pursuit of the student vote.

The Conservatives' lead education policy - on improving school discipline - proposed the setting up of a network of "turn-around" schools for badly-behaved youngsters.

And, on being appointed to the education brief, he repeated the need for improved discipline - a theme also echoed by his opposite number, Education Secretary Ruth Kelly.

Mr Cameron, who says he is a keen cook and enjoys gardening, has two young children, including a son with disabilities. And he lists his "proudest achievement since the 2001 general election" as winning the e-Politix award for Disability Champion 2004.


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