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The BBC's Nicholas Jones
"First of several initiatives on education"
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Tuesday, 6 June, 2000, 01:56 GMT 02:56 UK
Hague promise to tackle 'young thugs'
Conservative Leader William Hague
Mr Hague says Labour's "softly softly" approach in schools is failing
William Hague is to step in to the political row over the future of the education system with an attack on New Labour's "liberal elite".

In a speech on Tuesday the Conservative leader will launch an attack on Labour's education policy, saying it has fostered a lack of discipline in schools that amounts to a "smack in the face to every teacher and parent."

Unveiling a package of education policies, he will promise that the Tories would give teachers more freedom, and give headteachers more backing to deal with unruly children.

Last week Chancellor Gordon Brown criticised Magdalen College Oxford for denying state school pupil Laura Spence a place to study medicine, despite her excellent GCSE results.

This sparked a row over education policy between the government and the opposition.

"Liberal establishment"

Mr Hague says it is the "liberal elite" in New Labour which has led to the abolition of grant maintained schools and the assisted places scheme, and attempts to scrap Section 28.

He will say that the "classroom obsessions" of the Labour government and politically motivated education authorities have caused decades of "falling standards, poor discipline and people who can't spell the word 'Oxford' let alone aspire to go there."

He will say that the last Tory government tried to "turn the liberal tide" by introducing the national curriculum, city technology colleges and grant maintained schools.

But, he will add, they were prevented from going further by left-wing local education authorities.

It will be the first of a series of speeches outlining the education policies with which the Tories will fight the next election.


At the heart of the measures which Mr Hague will set out is a tough approach to discipline in schools, in contrast to what he calls Labour's "softly, softly" approach.

He says the Tories will abolish the targets and financial penalties set by the Labour government which are designed to restrict the number of pupils excluded by schools.

Mr Hague is expected to say that these targets allow "young thugs ... to hold our classrooms to ransom".

He will say that the Tories will give head teachers and school governors free rein on classroom discipline, as part of their "free schools" policy.

He will also announce plans to create a network of "Progress Centres" across the country to provide special education for disruptive pupils.

Mr Hague's intervention in the row over education policy broadens the scope of the debate, which until now has concentrated on entry to higher education.

Last week shadow chancellor Michael Portillo accused the government of "retreating into the envy ridden class politics of a by-gone age, using the case of an individual schoolgirl to score political points and sully the reputation of world class British universities,"

Meanwhile, the government has widened its attack on elitism into other walks of life - with criticism of the legal and medical professions.

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See also:

04 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Labour widens attack on elitism
03 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Warring parties clash over elitism
03 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Brown's fresh salvo at elitism
02 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Portillo joins elitist row
01 Jun 00 | UK Politics
Byers sounds alarm on Tory attacks
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