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Tuesday, September 28, 1999 Published at 14:38 GMT 15:38 UK


Blair promises 'smart card' for students

"A failed education is a life sentence for a child"

The prime minister has set a target of getting half of young people into higher education - with the offer of a discount 'smart card' as an incentive.

Speaking at the Labour Party's annual conference in Bournemouth, Mr Blair pledged that the numbers of young adults staying in education will continue to rise.

As an encouragement, the prime minister said that all 16 to 18 year olds who stay in education will get cut-price deals in shops, theatres, buses and trains, when they use an electronic student card.

As well as accessing discounts, the Department for Education says that the card will be "an electronic key" which will hold personal information about students and will be used for enrolment and collecting maintenance allowances.

[ image: The prime minister wants at least half of young people to enter higher education]
The prime minister wants at least half of young people to enter higher education
Already an extra 100,000 students were entering higher education, Mr Blair told delegates, and the 'smart card' scheme and the investment of £10bn a year would push this figure higher.

At present, 43% of young adults in England and Wales are set to stay on in education after leaving school - with a 50% staying-on rate already having been achieved in Scotland.

"If education is the key to success why do so many pupils leave school at 16 when we should be doing all we can to get them to stay?" said Mr Blair.

'No tolerance of failing'

Committing the government to further efforts to raise standards in schools, Mr Blair said that there had been improvements in test results for English and maths but there was still progress to be made.

"A failed education is a life sentence for a child. If we are to succeed in this knowledge economy we need - as parents, as teachers, as a country - to get a new attitude to learning."

There could be "no tolerance of failing local education authorities, no truce on failing schools, no pupils condemned to failure", said Mr Blair.

Mr Blair also re-iterated that there would be "no return to the 11-plus" and he called upon teachers to accept the proposed introduction of performance-related pay.

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