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Strategy revealed

Gillian Shephard's draft strategy paper, leaked last week, states: On Government education policy. "This should be one of our major success stories but it is not . . . Labour maintains a lead over us of about 30 per cent compared with 20 per cent a year ago. There is a perception that schools are underfunded and peace in the classroom is threatened.

Notwithstanding our progress there are areas where we are politically exposed: * The need to improve standards must not be overshadowed by arguments about the mechanics through which education is delivered; * Insufficient resources now threaten the provision of education in the state school sector including grant-maintained schools; * Any sudden reduction in the quantity of higher education or its cost to individuals would affect a whole segment of middle-class youngsters, losing both their votes and those of their parents: stopping the growth of the dynamic further education sector would also be very difficult to defend.

"The key issue in my view is standards. People now understand that high standards in education and training are important for them and their children.

"They also increasingly accept that national competitiveness and education and training are linked and that the acquisition of skills is vital to economic success. We have to demonstrate by achieving the national education and training targets that our policies will meet these aspirations."

On future Tory strategy Schools: "We must continue the drive to raise standards through rigorous testing and assessment and increased involvement of parents and governors."

14-to-l9s: "We must seize the opportunities arising from the merger (of education and employment) and achieve a much better focus on this age group. "

Examinations and qualifications: "We must rationalise the structure and take every opportunity to simplify it. The possibilities of merging the National Council for Vocational Qualifications and the School Curriculum and Assessment Authority must be taken seriously".

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