Dick Whittington's turn again

30th January 1998 at 00:00
Londoners clearly want a democratic voice. The idea of a directly-elected mayor has attracted warm support. The mayor will provide the leadership that London needs to maintain its place as a world-class city.

That's important for Londoners, but equally important for the rest of Britain. Three million jobs outside London depend on it and Pounds 8.2 billion more in tax is raised than is spent on public services in London.

How will London's mayor affect education? One guiding principle behind Labour's proposals is that decisions would be taken at the lowest possible level: schools will continue to run schools and local authorities will retain responsibility for raising standards.

But the legitimacy and the authority of office which an elected mayor brings will mean that he or she will be able to support schools and authorities in promoting London-wide interests. These range from arguing for a big enough slice from public funds to educate London's children to protecting Section 11 funding for those whose mother tongue is not English. Another key task will be to facilitate partnerships - public-private partnerships for economic development, partnerships to encourage private-sector training programmes,partnerships between education institutions and the private and voluntary sectors and so on.

Education will not be a core function for the mayor. But a charismatic mayor with a democratic mandate is bound to be a vital influence on the quality and range of education Londoners enjoy from cradle to crave.

Margaret Hodge is Labour MP for Barking and Dagenham, and chairman of the Commons Select Committee on education

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