'All children will get small-group tuition'

4th March 2005 at 00:00
PM promises to boost parent power in a third term. Michael Shaw reports

Every pupil will be given tuition in small groups or one-to-one lessons with their teachers under Labour party plans.

The Prime Minister and Ruth Kelly, Education Secretary, were due to unveil 10 education pledges yesterday which will be included in the Labour party's manifesto.

Tony Blair said: "If re-elected for a third term, we will carry through a fundamental system-wide change to put 'parent power' at the heart of the education system, giving all parents - not just a minority as in the past - the choices and opportunities needed for their children to succeed.

"In education, as in health and the other public services, we want the user, the parent and the pupil, to drive the system. My ambition is for people to say, 'I wish I was at school now.'"

Parent power has been a motif of the Government since mother-of-four Ms Kelly joined the Department for Education and Skills. Parents will be told that they will have a greater say in the kinds of lessons their children receive and the courses they study.

Schools will be expected to provide children with special tuition at least once a week, usually in small groups of around three or four but possibly in one-to-one sessions.

The sessions will be available to all students and designed to help struggling pupils catch up and to stretch those who are gifted and talented.

A Labour party policy adviser said: "The commitment will give every child some kind of small-group teaching. They will have an entitlement - not a legal right - to an extra experience that is stretching, like an additional foreign language."

Labour's nine other pledges were largely flagged in the five-year plan and the Government's white paper on 14 to 19 education.

Mr Blair underlined the second pledge - to let all schools become specialists - when he joined headteachers from many of the 2,000 existing specialist schools at a reception in London.

Further policy papers on education are expected from the Labour party in the coming month.

Ms Kelly is expected to stress parental responsibility at the Secondary Heads Association conference in Brighton today by re-inforcing the message that heads should use the weapon of parenting orders, for example, for those who allow their children to truant.

* michael.shaw@tes.co.uk

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