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Dewar unveils his vision

Neil Munro reports on the Labour party's plans for the Scottish Parliament

The educational aspects of Donald Dewar's "vision statement" last Friday were a mixture of relaunched policies and new commitments.

Unveiling Labour's plans for the Scottish parliament on the first anniversary of the devolution referendum, under the title of A Lifetime of Opportunity, the Secretary of State announced "10 new targets for Scottish educational excellence".

Previous promises ranging from nursery places for every three-year-old to expansion of further and higher education places were reinforced by new pledges including specialist science teaching in the upper primary and pound;15 million targeted on under-performing schools.

Mr Dewar also revealed two autumnal consultations, significantly "by the party" as opposed to the Scottish Office.

Parents and communities will be asked how they can contribute to "excellence in every school," and the public will be challenged to make lifelong learning "a passion for our people."

These have been in the pipeline for some time.

The Secretary of State, who was speaking in his Glasgow Anniesland constituency, did not spell out full details of his new targets.

But he renewed the Government's commitment to the centrality of education if Labour is the majority party in the Scottish parliament and added: "Ours is no narrow definition of education. Our targets stretch across traditional boundaries and into the lives of people of all ages."

But he went further than before to flag up the distinctiveness of his policies, such as the guarantee of a nursery place for all three-year-olds which he said will be unique to Scotland.

The recruitment of up to 5,000 classrooms assistants also means Scotland will be the only part of the UK to achieve an adult:child ratio of 1:15 in primary schools by 2002 (although the move itself was announced in July).

Mr Dewar also specified for the first time that 60 new community schools will be piloted - at least two of them in each education authority. These will be US-style "full-service" centres pioneering the provision of health, social services and education under the one roof.

They are intended "to break down barriers which stop our children learning effectively".

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