Page last updated at 16:26 GMT, Tuesday, 29 September 2009 17:26 UK

Brown's pledge on school funding

Gordon Brown
Mr Brown said he wanted to "unlock the talents" of youngsters

Prime Minister Gordon Brown has pledged not to cut public spending on schools.

Addressing the Labour conference, Mr Brown promised to increase investment in schools in England.

He promised work experience for out-of-work youngsters, an expansion of university places and an increase in apprenticeships and internships.

Mr Brown also revealed tax breaks on childcare fees for wealthier parents would be scrapped to fund free care for children from poorer homes.

Mr Brown said the "new model" for education in the 21st century was to "unlock the talents" of all young people.

"And so I can tell you that in the next five years we cannot and will not cut support to our schools. We will not invest less, but more," he told delegates.

"And our guarantee to parents is a ruthless determination to raise standards in every school.

Underperforming schools

"We will aggressively turn round underperforming schools so that your child will have a good local school no matter where you live."

Mr Brown said he did not want to see the "wasted generation" of the 1980s.

"We will ensure school leavers training, guarantee the young unemployed work experience, expand university places and to increase, not cut, the apprenticeships we need."

Mr Brown went on to announce free childcare for two-year-olds from less privileged backgrounds.

Mr Brown told the conference: "And for all those mums and dads who struggle to juggle work and home, I am proud to announce today that by reforming tax relief we will by the end of the next parliament be able to give the parents of a quarter of a million two-year-olds free childcare for the first time."

This would be funded by abolishing the employer-supported childcare scheme, where parents sacrifice part of their salary in exchange for "vouchers" which are used to pay for childcare.

They do not pay tax or National Insurance on the sacrificed salary and can save around £1,000 a year.

Mr Brown also said child benefit and child tax credits would "continue to rise every year".

Teenage mums and the elderly

Mr Brown also gave details of a scheme to help teenage mothers raise their babies "properly".

He said: "It's time to address a problem that for too long has gone unspoken, the number of children having children.

"For it cannot be right, for a girl of sixteen, to get pregnant, be given the keys to a council flat and be left on her own.

"From now on all 16 and 17-year-old parents who get support from the taxpayer will be placed in a network of supervised homes.

"These shared homes will offer not just a roof over their heads, but a new start in life where they learn responsibility and how to raise their children properly."

Union reaction

The National Union of Students said the government must ensure there were enough places for students next academic year.

NUS president Wes Streeting said: "The prime minister's commitment to ensure that no cap on opportunities exists requires an immediate focus on next year's university admissions.

"This year, in spite of record admissions, we have seen thousands of applicants turned away from our universities because of a shortage of places - this must not be allowed to happen again next year."

Chris Keates, general secretary of the NASUWT, said Mr Brown's speech had drawn a line in the sand about "the stark choice at the next election".

"Therefore, more investment or less in education will be a key dividing line between the political parties.

"The prime minister has given his unequivocal commitment to investing more in schools and education.

"The guarantee to young people to expand the apprenticeships programme, to provide skilled internships and to provide new green jobs is a critical part of that investment."

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