Blunkett distances himself from 'bog-standard' remark

23rd February 2001 at 00:00
Britain's comprehensives are not "bog-standard", Education Secretary David Blunkett has assured the Labour party spring conference.

Mr Blunkett attacked the term used by the Prime Minister's official spokesman Alastair Campbell, saying he did not recognise it.

In a keynote speech at last weekend's Glasgow conference, he tried to distance himself from the damaging remark, which has overshadowed the launch of the Government's five-year education plan.

Mr Blunkett also rejected claims that Labour's plans for a second term would establish a "two-tier" secondary system.

Mr Campbell had provoked widespread fury on the day of the Green Paper's launch by saying that it meant "the day of the bog-standard comprehensive school is over".

The political row that followed threatened to eclipse the launch of plans to diversify the secondary school system by encouraging the creation of more specialist schools, church schools, beacon schools and new contract schools, run by business or voluntary groups.

But ratherthan being a gaffe, the remark, and Mr Blunkett's subsequent attack on it, reflected the gulf between the views of Downing Street and the DFEE.

Downing Street officials stood by their "bog-standard" statement. Asked whether, with hindsight, they regretted the choice of words they said they "made no apology for reflecting the Prime Minister's view that every child deserved a decent education and the opportunity to make the best of their talents".

Mr Campbell himself said he did not accept that there was any paradox in promoting diversity in the search for uniform excellence.

But Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott echoed Mr Blunkett's sentiments:

"Let's have more talk about specialisation and high standards and a little less talk about bog-standard provision in our school system."

Nearly one-third of voters disapprove of the Green Paper's plans for 1,500 specialist schools, according to a poll. Fifty-eight per cent supported it, 31 per cent opposed it and 11 per cent said they did not know.

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