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Last Updated: Thursday, 23 February 2006, 13:08 GMT
Blair: We'll end two-tier schools
Tony Blair
Mr Blair: Seeking to win over rebel Labour MPs
Prime Minister Tony Blair has insisted his plans to reform schools in England will "get rid" of a two-tier system

The prime minister's comments come as efforts continue to win over 90 Labour MPs worried that reforms could mean a "back door" return to selection.

Mr Blair told his monthly media conference he had given "reassurances" and that his entire reform programme had to be "driven through".

He also denied running a "dual premiership" with Gordon Brown.

'Continue and persevere'

Mr Blair said of his education plans: "Our aim is not to establish a two-tier system but, on the contrary, to get rid of it, to help children - especially from the most disadvantaged backgrounds - to overcome their disadvantage and do well.

"It is why, however difficult, we shall continue and persevere with the reform, and hopefully succeed."

Asked whether he would be prepared to push the Education Bill through Parliament by relying on Conservative support, Mr Blair said: "I want the reforms through: that's the main thing.

"Of course I would like to do it with a majority of Labour MPs in support. The important thing is to do this for the country."

He added that the government had "dealt with" concerns raised by Labour backbenchers over plans to set up independent "trust" schools, with more say over admissions and finances.

'Radically transformed'

Mr Blair said: "We have given reassurances on selection and the strategic role for local authorities."

The Education Bill is due to be published next week.

He also said he wanted to push through reforms on health, welfare and crime reduction.

Outcomes, rather than the "process" of creating reforms, were important, Mr Blair said.

"The purpose is to improve the lives of Britain's hard-working families, to give them all opportunity and security in a rapidly changing world, where traditional patterns of economic and social life are being radically transformed," he said.

He also dismissed newspaper reports earlier this month that he is now running a dual premiership with Chancellor Gordon Brown.

He said of the reports: "If you look at where they're supposed to have originated, there's a lot less in that story than would appear."

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