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Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy
"We are beginning on what is a core message, principle and policy for the Lib Dems... education"
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The BBC's June Kelly
"The Lib Dems want to keep the focus on education"
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Monday, 14 May, 2001, 11:57 GMT
Lib Dems put schools first
Charles Kennedy
Charles Kennedy: 'Every child matters'
The Liberal Democrats have launched one of the key planks of their election programme: 3bn of extra investment in education.

Leader Charles Kennedy unveiled the plan to target schools, colleges and universities with the aim of giving every child in Britain a consistently high quality education.

Education plans
Full salary for trainee teachers
Max 25 pupils in primary school classes
12,500 extra teachers in primary schools
Classroom assistant for every 25 pupils aged 5-7
National school targets scrapped
New legal requirement for clear targets and improvements
The Liberal Democrats say they would cut average class sizes, recruit extra secondary school teachers and abolish red tape - all funded by a 1p rise in the basic rate of income tax.

But the plan, unveiled at the first of the daily round of election campaign news conferences, was attacked as "fantasy" by the Conservatives.

And Labour said it had spent nearly 7bn more on education than the Lib Dem policy of putting a penny on income tax would have allowed, if they had won the 1997 election.

Speaking from a platform emblazoned with the slogan 'A real chance for real change', Mr Kennedy called education a core "message, principle and policy" for his party.

He recalled what he called his own "generous and far-sighted" education through the state system, a fully-funded university place and scholarship year in America.

"When I look at how many young people today can't take those same opportunities for granted something's going far wrong with the education provision in our country.


I'm delighted that we're beginning our campaign proper on the core theme and value for us: education

Charles Kennedy
"That is why we put it centre stage, it's a key to so many other things that we'll be talking about in this election.

"Every child matters. A decent education is fundamental to individual freedom and it is of course a key to the future of Britain's prosperity as a whole."

The Liberal Democrats would alter the tax system to reflect the right of everyone to have a decent education, Mr Kennedy said.

They were "extremely critical" of the government for sticking to Tory spending plans in its first three years.

That had continued the damaging under-investment of the preceding 18 years of Conservative rule, Mr Kennedy said.


The Lib Dems are a joke party, totally removed from reality

Theresa May Conservative

But shadow education secretary Theresa May said the "fantasy" plans "confirm the Liberal Democrats are a joke party, totally removed from reality and who have absolutely no chance of ever winning a general election".

She said a House of Commons Library analysis showed the total cost of Lib Dem election policies would be nearer 6bn - a "gaffe" that showed their "utter incoherence on key policy issues," she added.

A spokesman for Education Secretary David Blunkett said Lib Dem policy would have resulted in fewer teachers and larger class sizes from 1997.

"We took the decision to get the economy right, to pay down the national debt and to develop welfare-to-work so that more people were contributing to society rather than drawing on it.

"Education spending increased 12.6bn whereas it would only have increased by 5.7bn had we simply gone for what the Liberal Democrats promised last time."

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