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Friday, 17 May, 2002, 14:34 GMT 15:34 UK
Tory calls for more religious schools
Classroom door
There have been calls to give teachers more power
A leading Conservative MSP is calling for more faith-based education in Scotland.

Deputy education spokesman Murdo Fraser wants to keep Catholic schools and allow other denominations to set up their own.

But critics have claimed that such a move would be "divisive".

The Mid-Scotland and Fife MSP proposed a motion at the party's Scottish conference in Perth calling for greater diversity in the country's schools, more choice for parents and greater support for specialist schools.

Murdo Fraser
Murdo Fraser: "Devolve more power"
He told delegates that the party fully supported Catholic schools and other faith-based education systems.

He also gave his backing to the creation of state-funded Church of Scotland schools where there is a demand.

He mounted an attack on both the comprehensive school system favoured by Labour and the Liberal Democrats, and Scottish National Party plans to cut class sizes.

"In contrast, the Scottish Tories are the ones who support real choice in the system," he said.

"We want a diverse state system with different types of schools available to parents.

School boards

"We should have specialist academies in the sciences, in arts, in music and in sport, as they have in England.

"We should trust school heads and school boards more and devolve more power downwards, including more responsibility for budgets."

However, some in the party, such as student Neil Bennie, said they were uncomfortable with Mr Fraser's ideas and branded them divisive.

Conservatives will encourage greater choice than Scotland has ever known by encouraging parents and teachers to come forward with business plans for new schools

Brian Monteith
Faith-based education is not official party policy, but the leadership believes churches have an important role to play in helping communities help themselves.

The conference also heard from education spokesman Brian Monteith on Friday.

He said it was a "national embarrassment" that Scotland no longer had a worldwide reputation for education.

He said the party's long-term goal was to see state schools run in partnership between parents and teachers.

He also proposed adapting a Danish system which enables parents to set up and run their own schools for Scotland.

New schools

Under that scheme a group of 28 parents can receive state funding to establish their own school if they produce a sound business plan.

He said the introduction of a similar scheme in Scotland would be part of the Tories' plans to give more power to parents and teachers.

"Conservatives will encourage greater choice than Scotland has ever known by encouraging parents and teachers to come forward with business plans for new schools," he said.

"We will develop the Danish model to suit the Scottish experience so that parents of between 20 and 30 pupils can launch new schools offering different approaches under the guardianship of Her Majesty's Inspectorate."

Political Editor Brian Taylor
"The Tories want faith schools and specialist schools to flourish."
See also:

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Tories are 'the only alternative'
10 May 02 | Scotland
Tories focus on poverty
24 Mar 02 | UK Politics
All change for Tory faithful
25 Mar 02 | UK Politics
Tories pledge to 'transform'
01 Sep 01 | Scotland
McLetchie makes Tory unity plea
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