Blair gets personal to woo voters
Labour and Conservatives both vied this week to show that their party was the one that would transform schools the most by giving parents greatest choice.
In a keynote speech aimed at wooing middle-class voters, Tony Blair said that public services would be the battleground for the next election.
The Labour party would replace the "one-size-fits-all" welfare state of the past five decades with personalised services, tailored to individual users, he said.
Mr Blair said parents needed greater choice, because it acted as a lever for improvements in schools. "Some argue that people - usually other people - don't want choice," he said. "That, for example, they just want a single excellent school and hospital on their doorstep. Of course they do. But in reality people do want choice, in public services as in other services."
Mr Blair said Labour would create greater choice inside schools as well as between them by providing better learning options for each child.
The party would also help every secondary become a specialist college and significantly expand the number of academies.
Tory leader Michael Howard, has made similar speeches on his party's plan to reform education and health, which it has labelled "A Right to Choose".
Mr Howard told the National Grammar Schools Association last week that the Conservatives would put parents "in the driving seat" and give families, rather than the local authority, the lead in deciding on whether they want a grammar school.
Doug McAvoy, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said that the Government's concept of choice in education was a "figment" and that all parents really wanted was a good local school.