Promises, promises to lick opponents

If election promises are to be believed, another term of Conservative government would bring at least another two sets of school exam league tables and a teacher appraisal system designed to weed out poor teachers.

The competition for looking tough on standards in school is producing extensive lists of targets and measures from the two major political parties.

Labour is promising targets for literacy and numeracy and intends to re-train primary teachers in order to meet the new benchmarks.

The Conservatives are probably ahead in sheer quantity of promises. As well as reforming A-levels (to increase the number of subjects to be studied in the first-year sixth-form), the party wants to set national performance targets at four key stages in primary and secondary education.

There are to be more league tables of test results at seven and 14, in addition to those already published for 11- and 16-year-olds. The tests are to be simplified and the results reported to parents as percentages.

John Major is promising that the 20 worst-performing local education authorities will be inspected. In cases where they are found to be failing to improve, they will be taken over and run by officials.

Labour is also promising to audit local authorities and will expect them to set targets based on three-year development plans. Its literacy programme sets a target of all 11-year-olds achieving level 4 in English by 2000.

The Conservatives promise: * league tables based on tests at seven and 14; * tougher appraisal; * inspection by OFSTED of LEAs with hit squads for those that fail to improve; * reform of A-levels; * targets for school performance at seven, 11, 14 and 16; * more grammar schools, more selection, more GM schools.

Labour is promising: * smaller infant classes (implementation delayed for a year); * literacy target for 11-year-olds; * re-training of primary teachers to improve teaching of reading; * inspection of LEAs and the setting of efficiency targets; * local authorities will be required to increase from 85 per cent to 90 per cent the share of education budget going directly to schools.

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