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Axe for A-levels, GCSEs and tests

"Every parent of young children wishes they could spend more one-to-one time with them," said Liberal Democrat leader Charles Kennedy, presumably thinking about his own struggle to spend time with his new-born son. He added that Lib Dem plans to cut infant class sizes to 20 would at least mean that pupils had more one-to-one time with their teachers.

There appeared to be no new policies in the party's education manifesto, which repeated plans to slim down the curriculum and scrap tests at seven and 11.

The Liberal Democrats would replace A-levels and GCSEs with an overarching diploma. Ofsted would be replaced by lighter inspections organised by the Audit Commission, that would focus on self-evaluation reports which would be published on the web.

But unions fear making such reports public could put as much pressure on teachers as league tables. Chris Keates, NASUWT general secretary, said:

"Teachers should not assume Liberal Democrat policies are going to be any more cuddly than any other party's."

The party plans to improve behaviour with "positive behaviour plans" agreed between parents and schools. Tories dismissed the scheme as soft on discipline.

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