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Minister pledges funds for reform

TAX rises to pay for public services have been backed by the new schools minister in return for reform. David Miliband, one of new Labour's fastest rising stars, used his maiden speech to demand a return on taxpayers'

money.

"Deliver them reform and they will deliver the funds," he told the National Association of Head Teachers, annual conference.

He said that Britain had been waiting all his adult life for a government brave enough to ask the public to back reforms of public services with investment.

But part of the deal for the public was that heads and teachers must accept new ways of working, a modernised curriculum and different ways of raising standards for under-achievers. "Investment for reform - that must be our deal too."

His comments came as NAHT general secretary David Hart called on the Government to invest at least pound;73 billion over the next three years, warning that thousands of jobs were at risk. A survey of nearly 1,400 schools showed that just one in 14 headteachers has more money to spend this year after taking into account rising costs.

Just a month before Chancellor Gordon Brown outlines the Government's long-term spending plans, Mr Hart warned: "Any wavering on education expenditure would be a monumental betrayal of election promises."

Mr Miliband reinforced expectations of tax rises to pay for public services, saying investment went hand-in-hand with reform. "I am proud to be part of a government that challenges the country to support a tax rise for investment in public services," he told the 350 NAHT conference delegates in Torquay.

"You want more investment. So do I. You want higher standards. So do I. But the public wants reforms to ensure their money is well spent."

The 36-year-old, promoted barely a year after entering Parliament, said primary schools had defined what was possible through the determined and professional way they had introduced national literacy and numeracy strategies.

"It is remarkable. For years, mass under-achievement was tolerated. Now we are moving to all but eliminate it, raising the floor below which no one falls while enriching primary schooling to bring out the best in children," he said.

"The biggest change since 1997 is that instead of people asking why we have historicially performed poorly in education, they now believe we can do better and ask why we don't.

"The cycle of pessimism that says nothing works, assiduously peddled by those who doubt either the potential of the nation's children or the skill in the nation's public education system, has been broken."

Mr Miliband set out four challenges: to raise standards for less privileged children, to support teachers to focus on teaching, to reform secondary education and to build a culture of rights and responsibilities for the whole community to tackle behaviour and truancy.

"Rise to these challenges and we will continue the progress in primary schools and start to match it in secondaries. The prize is huge: to break the habits of a lifetime, tackle povery of ambition and make high expectations and high achievement for a majority, not a minority, the norm.

"For me, this job is special because it allows me to contribute to what I believe is the biggest task facing this country - developing the talent of all our children so that they can contribute to our economy, communities and artistic and social life.

"Get that right and we can renew our economy, improve our quality of life, strengthen our communities.

"Get it wrong, fail to make the right investments, miss the opportunities, accept second best, make do with what we have achieved, not strive for what we can achieve and we will be fighting to get anything right in crime or health or the economy."

News, 4-5

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