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Last Updated: Saturday, 29 September 2007, 12:19 GMT 13:19 UK
Schools to become 'world class'
Gordon Brown
Information from the day of debate will shape children's policy
Gordon Brown has again pledged to take England's schools to the next level and make them "world class".

The PM was speaking during a national day of debate on how the government should improve children's lives.

He said celebrities needed to become role models for young people and speak out against drugs.

He said: "We've moved our schools from being below average to being above average. We've now got to make them world class."

Mr Brown was addressing a citizens' jury meeting in central London as part of the day of consultation hosted by England's Children's Secretary, Ed Balls, taking place in four cities.

Up to 400 parents, teachers, children and social care workers are attending events in Leeds, London, Portsmouth and Birmingham - with each session linked by satellite.

Role models

People are being asked for their views on services as well as the roles of parents and communities and what to do to keep children safe and healthy.

The government says it will use the answers to help draw up a 10-year plan for children's services.

The prime minister said good role models were crucial on issues such as drug abuse and criticised celebrities who thought they were "above the law".

He added: "I spoke to Kelly Holmes last night, the great Olympic runner, she would be very happy to be one of the role models.

"As someone who's won a sport who says that drugs are awful and wants to tell young people that drugs are completely unacceptable.

"And there may be others who can be role models for young people just as friends can be, just as neighbours can be and people who have got a national standing who can do so.

"On the other side of this we've got celebrities who take a very casual attitude to drugs, who think that their standing in the community makes them above the law on these matters.

"And that is another area where I think we've got to send a very clear message. Not only that we will not decriminalise drugs but at the same time that this is unacceptable behaviour."

'Difficult issues'

Mr Balls said the conferences mean people would be able to discuss the "issues that matter most to them" and how to give parents the support they need to deal issues such as the internet, drugs and underage drinking.

"They will help ensure that all our children have the very best possible start in life and fulfil their potential," he added.

The government was stung by a controversial report earlier this year from Unicef, which put the UK at the bottom of a league table of children's well-being among 21 industrialised nations.

It argued that the report was based on out-of-date information and that its polices had helped to improve children's welfare.

But when Gordon Brown became prime minister he changed the education department to become the Department for Children, Schools and Families, to put a greater focus on children.

Mr Balls then announced a 10-year plan, saying it would set out the long-term goals for the new department.

The Time to Talk consultation will end on 19 October and the Children's Plan is expected to be published in December.



SEE ALSO
Heads told to get tough on basics
03 Sep 07 |  Education
Brown shakes up education arena
28 Jun 07 |  Education

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