Fresh start on funding

The Rifkind commission aims to rebuild trust between parents, pupils and teachers, reports Neil Munro

The Rifkind commission proposes a new relationship between education authorities, schools and the new parliament. In another confessional, the report accepts that schools have been caught in the crossfire over funding disputes between central and local government which "is no longer acceptable".

The Tories would retain education authorities but provide clear central direction from an education committee of the parliament and its advisers. Further delegated management would be given to headteachers. No changes are proposed for school boards but opting out (renamed "independent management") would remain an option.

On higher education, the commission places the party close to a commitment that the maintenance grant should be restored, although it continues to back student loans. Government policy on tuition fees is attacked as "not only unpopular, but shamefully discriminatory and probably unworkable".

The need for a skilled workforce and development of life skills in schools is endorsed. The Tories say, however, that apprenticeships should be reintroduced along German lines so that most post-16 training is done formally in the workplace.

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