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Tax and spin

While Labour and the Tories try to convince us that we can have higher spending and lower taxes, the Liberal Democrats this week decided that they need to raise more money for schools, hospitals and pensions.

The party will go into the next election promising to put a penny on the basic rate of income tax to raise an extra pound;3 billion for schools. Matthew Taylor, the Liberal Democrats' Treasury spokesperson, claimed that the Government was not investing enough in public services. "Labour may be taxing more but they are certainly not spending more," he said.

Of course in certain areas the Government seems to be spending rather too much: the Department for Education and Employment has admitted spending pound;110,000 on the design of the new schools Green Paper and the accompanying website.

But Education Secretary David Blunkett did announce a pound;92 million scheme intended to improve teachers' skills, rais their status and reduce the number quitting the classroom. Perks on offer include pound;3,000 bursaries to enable teachers to take study breaks at museums or universities and sabbaticals for teachers in challenging schools (see story right and Estelle Morris, page 15).

In a separate pound;35m scheme, pupils from deprived backgrounds will be offered music lessons, educational visits and adventure holidays - pleasures expected by the better-off.

However, poorer pupils will still struggle to keep up with their classmates' lifestyles. The largest-ever survey of pupils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland shows almost 60 per cent of secondary pupils have a mobile phone and 85 per cent have a computer at home.

The survey found art was children's favourite subject, with RE the least liked. Perhaps, like the Lib Dems, children are sceptical about the miracle of the loaves and fishes.

Jon Slater

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