Anyone listening to the Tories?

29th April 2005 at 01:00
Tony Blair struggled to keep education on the agenda, as he faced "liar, liar, pants on fire" taunts from Michael Howard.

At Lilian Baylis school - which Oliver Letwin said he would rather beg than send his child to - the PM highlighted plans to refurbish schools. But his claim that he would send his children to the improving Lambeth school failed to convince the Daily Mail ("Really, Mr Blair? Then why did you bus them miles across town to selective schools?" it asked.) On Wednesday, Mr Blair accused Michael Howard of wanting to take pound;200 a child from state schools to subsidise private places ("Enemy of the State School", Daily Mirror).

But a secretly filmed Five TV documentary, Classroom Chaos showing a supply teacher facing classroom disruption forced school discipline on the agenda.

Mr Blair promised to "tame school yobbos" in the Sun.

Meanwhile, shadow education secretary Tim Collins complained loudly about getting the 6.50am slot on Radio 4's Today programme while Education Secretary Ruth Kelly was quizzed on social mobility and school standards on the prized 8.10am slot.

Unfortunately Mr Collins's protests meant that he failed to drive home the Tories' main education issue of school discipline.

Not that Ms Kelly convinced everyone. ("Parents and teachers want her to succeed," said the Sun. "But they won't be fooled by spin.") The week started with the Sutton Trust report showing that social mobility is declining. Tory papers blamed the demise of grammar schools ("The grammar lesson" needed to be learned, said The Daily Telegraph). But on Channel 4 News, the politicians had other views. "A damning indictment of 18 years of Tory rule," said Labour's Tessa Jowell, while Liberal Democrat Sir Menzies Campbell blamed Labour's tuition fees.

Meanwhile the Telegraph gave Ms Kelly only "half marks" for pledging more state boarding schools in its interview with her, as her plans would only benefit disruptive or gifted pupils.

A YouGov poll for the paper found only 27 per cent of voters think schools, colleges and universities are improving - but an ICM poll for the Sunday Telegraph showed Labour still 12 points ahead of the Tories on education.

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