Labour promises to cut class sizes

Education issues, including class size and youth training, featured large in the Labour party's major pre-election campaign document, Road to the Manifesto, launched this week.

The reduction of class sizes to less than 30 for those aged under seven, was cited as one of the party's main pledges.

Labour intends to scrap the Assisted Places Scheme, which funds children at private schools, in order to finance a three-year target of bringing all classes below the 30-pupil level, costed at Pounds 68 million in England.

Another commitment is to have a national target of getting all 18-year-olds to achieve NVQ level 2 (equivalent to 5 GCSEs grades A-C) by the year 2000. All 18 to 25-year-olds out of work for more than six months will be entitled to full-time education. The party intends to end the Youth Training scheme and channel the money into these initiatives.

A mini-version of the document, including the party's five main pledges, will be sent to 2 million homes in key constituencies.

While the document does not go into the fine detail of Labour's education policy, party sources said previous policy documents such as Diversity and Excellence, Excellence for Everyone, Aiming High and Earn as You Learn will be implemented.

David Blunkett, Labour's education spokesman, has already announced the intention to create public-private partnerships to cover the Pounds 3 billion school repairs backlog. He has said he will end selection, but will not abolish existing grammar schools. He will allow parental ballots to end grammar status.

Grant-maintained schools will become foundation schools and will receive equitable funding with community (former county) schools and aided (denominational) schools. The role of the local authority has yet to be defined, although Tony Blair has referred to a new "streamlined" local education authority. LEAs will, however, have a major role in improving standards and tackling failing schools.

The concentration on early years is part of a back-to-basics drive by Mr Blunkett. He also intends to reform teacher-training institutions and has threatened that bad teachers will be sacked.

Mr Blunkett was one of the first to emerge from a meeting of his party's national executive which was asked by Mr Blair to vote for the document, two days before the launch. He described the meeting as "excellent, very good-natured and extremely unified".

But left-wing MPs Dennis Skinner and Diane Abbott voted against, saying it did not go far enough on full employment and renationalisation.

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