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The BBC's Robin Oakley
"More freedom for schools"
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UK Shadow Education Secretary, Theresa May
"We are giving them the opportunity to choose their own admissions policy"
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UK Education Secretary, David Blunkett
"In the end the electorate will judge us on what we do"
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Tuesday, 4 July, 2000, 19:52 GMT 20:52 UK
Hague offers extra 540 per pupil
Classroom scene
Money would be diverted to pupils from LEA budgets
Schools would receive an extra 540 per pupil under a Conservative government, William Hague has pledged.

In what he claims would be the most radical shake-up of the education system since 1944, the Tory leader is offering schools the chance to decide their own admissions policy, using selection.

And he promised to channel billions of pounds distributed by government grants and local education authorities directly to schools.

When the Tories were in power, they cut budgets by 60 a pupil in real terms

David Blunkett
Conservative sources stressed the changes would "scrap a whole tier of bureaucracy."

But the government said the measures would mean 6,000 infant teachers would have to be sacked.

Education and Employment Secretary David Blunkett dubbed the Tory leader "Half-truth Hague".

Free to choose

The main plank of Mr Hague's education policy is the concept of "free schools".

Based on the former grant-maintained schools, these will be able to set their own admissions policy, becoming grammar or specialist schools if they wish.

Borrowing from the American charter schools idea, the Conservatives would allow private companies to own or manage schools within the state system.

Local education authorities would be left with only a minor role.

In a speech to the Politeia think-tank in London, Mr Hague argued that 3bn of the schools' budget was kept back by local education authorities (LEAs) to spend "on their own activities and bureaucracy".

"A further 1bn is kept back by the Department for Education and Employment (DfEE) to spend on gimmicky grant schemes and pointless bureaucracy such as the near 300-strong Standards and Effectiveness Unit.

"Under the next Conservative government, these DfEE grant schemes would disappear and LEAs as we know them would cease to exist."

Extra responsibilities

The money would be channelled directly to schools, he said.

The changes would force schools to take on extra responsibilities, such as organising transport for pupils, says Mr Hague.

"Schools will be paid on a per-pupil basis. And because 4bn will no longer be kept back by Whitehall and local councils, every school in the country will get an average 540 more per pupil to spend as best as they see fit," he said.

David Blunkett
David Blunkett accuses Mr Hague of "misleading parents"
For the first time, Mr Hague promised to keep Labour's literacy hour and daily maths lesson. He also promised to keep the national curriculum.

And he attacked the government for putting the interests of a disruptive minority of pupils ahead of the majority.

But Mr Blunkett said bypassing LEAs was unworkable.

"The truth is that when the Tories were in power they cut budgets by 60 a pupil in real terms in their last three budgets."

He said the government already planned to ensure LEAs delegated another 1bn to schools within the next two years.

And he wanted to cut the 350m LEAs spent on their own administration.

Where's the money?

For the Liberal Democrats, Phil Willis said the Tory figures did not add up.

Mr Willis said: "The funding proposals that William Hague is proposing will amount to something in the region of 4.4bn.

"Taking schools away from LEAs' controls altogether means the loss of another 0.4bn. Again, no notion as to where this money is coming from.

"These are top-of-the-head ideas that, quite frankly, do not stand up in the real world."

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See also:

04 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Hague's tricky balancing act
02 Jul 00 | UK Politics
Hague backs school uniform
11 Mar 00 | Correspondents
'Charter schools' offer independence
23 Jun 00 | Correspondents
Head quits over disruptive pupils
06 Jun 00 | Education
Heads debate Hague's idea
23 Nov 99 | Education
Tories pledge to 'free' schools
13 Mar 00 | Education
Extra hours for school children
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