Page last updated at 11:09 GMT, Saturday, 7 February 2009

Cameron makes state school pledge

David Cameron
David Cameron wants to create thousands of new state schools

Conservative Party leader David Cameron has pledged to send his children to state schools - as long as they offer a good standard of education.

Eton-educated Mr Cameron told the Daily Telegraph: "I would like my children to go through the state sector. I'll always do the right thing for them."

However his plan to create a new wave of comprehensives, existing outside local authority control, was attacked.

Schools minister Jim Knight called it an "unregulated free-for-all."

Mr Cameron pledged to take on the teaching unions if they resisted his plans for schools in England, while shadow education secretary Michael Gove said the Conservatives were focused on improving state provisions.

Mr Gove said the Tories would provide a "superb new school in every community".


The party's plan is for businesses or charities to set up thousands of new comprehensives which would be able to provide free education - but could operate without the restraints imposed by local authorities.

"The overwhelming majority of people rely on the state system and need it to be better," said Mr Gove.

"There are all sorts of people working to improve the state system, but we need to expand the number of people who are working not just to make sure the state system is better, but the best in the world."

What we want to resist is schools going outside of local authorities
Christine Blowers, National Union of Teachers acting general secretary
Mr Cameron confirmed he would not create any more grammar schools, a decision that caused a backbench rebellion last year.

But Mr Knight said: "The truth is that the Tories have committed to slashing 4.5 billion from our school building programme.

"That would mean cancelling 360 school rebuilding projects across the country. And the revenue costs of their plans for thousands of surplus places - a total of 1.5 billion over five years - could only be paid for by deep cuts to the budgets of existing schools."

The acting general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, Christine Blower, also rejected Mr Cameron's idea.

She said: "We're very pleased he wants to send his children to state schools, what we want to resist is schools going outside of local authorities because we genuinely believe that's the right place for schools to be.

"He talks about thousands of super-comps. Well, actually there are already thousands of super-comps, they're the ones inside local authorities and they're doing a jolly good job."


BBC political correspondent Gillian Hargreaves said Mr Cameron's endorsement of state schools for his own children marked a shift away from old-style Tory elitism.

He would be the first modern Conservative leader to send his children to a state secondary school, our correspondent added.

Meelian Mansfield, chairwoman of the Campaign for State Education, gave a measured response to Mr Cameron's plans.

She said: "If it's a state school system which is locally accountable to local people, run by local government, we think that's amazing, that's very good. Politicians of all kinds, both local and national, ought to be showing confidence in the system they're running by sending their children to those schools."

Mr Cameron has three children. Ivan, aged six, attends a special school while Nancy, five, is at a Church of England state school. Arthur, two, has not yet started school.

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