Quick Guide: Education issues

Tuition Fees

Students face higher tuition fees

Tuition fees are where both the Tories and Liberal Democrats hope to score points against the government.

From 2006, English university students will have to pay annual fees of up to 3,000 - almost treble the current rate.

Labour says the money is needed to fund an expansion of university places.

Both opposition parties would scrap fees, but the Tories would pay through higher interest charges on student loans, while the LibDems would increase income tax.


There is a new focus on tackling poor behaviour in the classroom

Poor behaviour in the classroom has been identified as an issue by the three major parties.

The government wants more behaviour management measures within schools - particularly to tackle low-level disruption.

The Tories want to stop appeals panels over-ruling heads over exclusions and to set up "turn-around" schools.

The Liberal Democrats would improve behaviour with smaller class sizes and better-trained teachers.

School standards

Test results went up at first but are now levelling off

Labour says the value of its increased investment in education is seen in rising standards in test results.

Primary school test results show a record number - 78% - of 11 year olds reaching the expected ability level in English.

But critics say that this still falls short of the 80% target set when Labour entered office in 1997.

Maths results have improved to 74%, but there is an uphill struggle to reach the target of 85% by next year.

Exam reform

More pupils are taking A-levels and GCSEs than ever before

Calls for the scrapping of A-levels, following Sir Mike Tomlinson's report into the exam system in England, have been firmly rejected by the government.

Many of the teachers' organisations criticised this decision.

But Education Secretary Ruth Kelly proposed a widening of vocational education - without adopting major changes to the academic subjects.

The Tories and Liberal Democrats accused the government of ducking difficult decisions about exams.

School choice

Parents struggle to find the best school for their child

Finding the right school place is often stressful for families.

The government says what parents want is enough diversity and quality within the state system to allow them options, such as specialist schools and city academies.

The Conservatives have proposed a voucher-based system allowing parents to have a wider choice and to buy into low-cost private schools.

The Liberal Democrats want a more flexible curriculum, which will give pupils a wider range of learning paths.


Spending has risen faster than inflation under Labour

School funding has increased in recent years - despite the budget problems which embarrassed the government two years ago.

According to official figures, between the academic years 1997-98 and 2002-03, funding per pupil rose by 22% in real terms, worth 630.

By next year, the increase will have reached 1,000 per pupil.

The Tories promise funding for 600,000 more school places - and the Lib Dems promise more funding for early years.