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Last Updated: Sunday, 23 October 2005, 13:12 GMT 14:12 UK
Kelly plays down rift on schools
Ruth Kelly
Ruth Kelly would not deny reports of a dispute
Education Secretary Ruth Kelly has tried to play down newspaper reports of a Cabinet revolt over plans for schools in England being unveiled next week.

John Prescott has clashed with Tony Blair because he fears elite schools will be created at the expense of others, according to the reports.

Ms Kelly did not deny the claims, saying there was "debate", but she insisted ministers had worked closely.

She said Tuesday's White Paper aimed to raise aspirations for all pupils.

Failing schools?

Mr Prescott is said to be worried about plans to bring some of the ethos of public schools to the state sector.

The Observer newspaper quotes a Whitehall source explaining Mr Prescott's fears about how expanding choice could affect working class families.

There is no suggestion whatsoever we are trying to force children to get on buses to go to schools they don't want to go to
Ruth Kelly
Education Secretary

"He is scared nice schools that are doing very well will expand and do well, but will leave more and more other schools to close and on the way to closure they will have all the problems of a failing school."

Asked about Mr Prescott's concerns, Ms Kelly said: "Whenever flagship policies are developed there is going to be debate within the government.

"The important point about John and other members of the Cabinet is there have been really good, close working relationships throughout the build-up to this White Paper."

'No privilege'

Ms Kelly argued it was right for state schools to learn from private schools about instilling an ethos of "good discipline, high standards and an expectation that every single child in that school is going to succeed".

But she went on: "If you are talking about privilege, selection, unfair funding, that is something I would never want to see in our state system."

She denied newspaper reports suggesting the White Paper will propose bringing children from poor areas to schools in wealthier neighbourhoods, and vice versa.

But pupils should not be deterred from going to a better school by transport costs, she said.

"It might mean saying we should make transport costs easier for you to bear," said Ms Kelly.

"There is no suggestion whatsoever that what we are trying to do is force children to get on buses to go to schools they don't want to go to.

"What we do have to do is raise aspiration and get people to think about the education that best suits them, put their parents in the driving seat, as it were, so that parents can exercise real choice."


The education secretary said it was for schools to determine their own admissions policies.

Local education authorities would still have a role but it would be different from their previous job, she said.

Tory leadership hopeful David Cameron, the shadow education secretary, said Mr Blair had failed to deliver reforms during two terms in office.

"The row between Tony Blair and John Prescott over the White Paper explains why this government will never be able to deliver higher standards and rigour in our schools," he said.

Liberal Democrat education spokesman Ed Davey said government "squabbles" over education were becoming "farcical".

He said: "If the prime minister can't take his deputy and the chancellor with him in his last foray into education, people will question whether the White Paper's proposals will be implemented under a Brown government."

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