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Tuesday, 6 March, 2001, 15:56 GMT
Liberal Democrats: Education policies

Find out more about the Liberal Democrats' education policies.

Education is a matter devolved to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies - and Westminster MPs have little influence over education policy in these parts of the United Kingdom. For more information see our full guide to devolution.


SECONDARY SCHOOLS: ADMISSION/SELECTION

Labour's plans to "diversify" secondary schools have been attacked by the Liberal Democrats as marking the "death knell" of the comprehensive system.

The expansion of specialist schools, they say, will mean a two-tier education system.

Non-specialist schools will be left with less money and fewer of the most able pupils, creating a "divisive" system the party warns.

The Liberal Democrats want to spend more on upgrading state schools across the board - and reject the shift towards much more widespread selection which could follow the introduction of the Conservatives' "free schools" policy.


SPENDING ON SCHOOLS

The Lib Dems say their plans for education will cost almost an extra 3bn per year and they guarantee to fund this "irrespective of short-term economic growth".

The party says that it would find the money by putting an extra 1p on the basic rate of income tax.

They would extend charitable status to all schools without affecting total council funding and maintain the VAT exemption on school fees.

While the Liberal Democrats say they would give schools more control over their budgets, they strongly support Local Education Authorities.

They see them as a crucial interface between the local community and central government.


HIGHER EDUCATION

The Liberal Democrats estimate their proposals for education across the board will cost an extra 3bn a year.

A proportion of that would go into reintroducing maintenance grants for students.

The Lib Dems would also scrap tuition fees and reform student maintenance to make sure that grants are only paid back at a higher level of earned income.

The party wants "individual learning accounts" for students, funded by government, individuals and employers.

It says there should be more emphasis on flexible life-long learning, especially for women wanting to study part-time. The party also proposes additional funding incentives to institutions which take in students from under-represented groups in society.

And, with a focus on access for all, more cash would be made available for mature and disabled students.


TEACHER SHORTAGES AND PAY

Higher pay for teachers, a higher training salary and an improvement in working conditions would contribute to making teaching more attractive, say the Liberal Democrats - which in the long term would reduce shortages.

While the government has introduced training salaries of 6,000 for student teachers, the Liberal Democrats have said that training salaries should be half the average starting salary.

If schools are going to depend on temporary teachers from supply agencies for the next few years, the Liberal Democrats have suggested that there should be greater support for schools using these teachers, induction sessions for overseas teachers and local authority monitoring of the numbers of supply teachers.


CLASS SIZES AND EXCLUSIONS

The Liberal Democrats want to see a better pupil/teacher ratio in schools.

The party wants to establish a maximum average class size of 25 pupils in primary schools.

The Libs Dems have hit out at the Labour government for a rise in secondary school class sizes.

In November the Lib Dems compiled statistics which put the ratio of teachers to pupils in English secondary schools at its worst level for 25 years.

The party called them "shocking" figures which showed schools had an average of 17.1 children for every teacher, compared with 16.7 when Labour came into power in 1997.

The Lib Dems oppose targets for reducing school exclusions saying schools must have the freedom to deal with discipline as is appropriate to the child and the school.

The party also wants to provide free nursery education for all three as well as four year olds.

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