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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 July, 2004, 10:16 GMT 11:16 UK
Lib Dems unveil 'pupil guarantee'
A British school classroom
Classes should be smaller, says the Lib Dems
A "pupils' guarantee" has been launched by the Liberal Democrats as they argue children are being left out of the political debate on education.

The Lib Dem pledge includes smaller classes, fewer tests, first class teachers, modern schools and a "personalised curriculum".

Party leader Charles Kennedy set out the details as the government published its five-year education plan.

The new guarantee encapsulates the Lib Dem ideas discussed in recent months.

'Pupils focus'

The Conservatives and Labour have already drawn up detailed education plans but the Lib Dems argue they are both fighting over essentially the same turf, with "choice" as the buzz word.

Mr Kennedy says the arguments over choice are a distraction from the public desire for quality services close to home.

Young people are seldom - if ever - mentioned
Charles Kennedy

Unveiling the guarantee plan, he said: "We've heard much from the other two parties about choice as a panacea for improving standards. Yet young people are seldom - if ever - mentioned...

"The 'pupil guarantee' says to every child and every parent that they will receive a quality education close to home."

He accused both Labour and the Tories of flirting with private provision and schools of organising their own selection.

'No selection'

Mr Kennedy says he accepts the need for diversity in education, with every child able to find the education which best suits them.

There can be partnerships between local education authorities and organisations in the private and voluntary sectors, he argued.

But "a state-funded school must accept a minimum set curriculum and apply national standards and accept inspection" and there can be no selective admissions.

The Lib Dems say they would scrap government plans for 200 new city academies - schools with much more independence than most state schools.

Funding priorities

Mr Kennedy says the academies would "institutionalise" a two-tier education system.

His launch brought together some of the party's thinking over recent months and was aimed at spelling out the principles rather than the fine details of their plans.

The Lib Dems used to advocate adding 1p to income tax to fund education.

Now they want to change the priorities of existing spending, although a new 50p tax rate for earnings over 100,000 would pay for abolishing student fees.

The Tories announced their education plans last week, promising more choice to parents and to let schools decide budgets, discipline and admissions policy, including selecting pupils by ability.

Labour's five year plans are being unveiled on Thursday, and also expected to promise more freedom for schools.




SEE ALSO:
More specialist schools announced
01 Jul 04  |  Education
Clarke's Budget news for schools
18 Mar 04  |  Education


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