A passport to parent power

2nd April 2004 at 01:00
I am sorry that Donald Hirsch seems to have misunderstood Conservative schools policy (TES, March 19). It is not the case that parents will be able to top up their pupil passport at all. The aim of the passport is to provide choice where currently there is none, and power for parents and teachers where currently there is only diktat and restrictions.

The pupil passport is about much more than which school a parent decides to send their child to, be it within or without what we currently think of as the state sector. Our policy will give parents much greater choice and influence over schools. We will also transform the regulatory environment in which schools operate so that teachers and governors will be freer to respond to the wishes of parents. This combination will stipulate a more innovative and diverse range of schools, funded by the taxpayer but not necessarily owned or managed by the state.

We recognise that for too many people there is no effective choice within the state-maintained sector. So we will abolish the surplus places rule, which forces children to go to the school chosen by the local education authority even if their parents think it is the wrong choice for the child.

We will encourage new schools to enter the market, and we will reduce the obstacles which prevent good schools from expanding.

That is a radical route to improving standards for all. It offers a stark contrast with the failed policies of a Labour government that has let down too many teachers and families.

Tim Yeo MP Shadow secretary of state for public services, health and education, House of Commons

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