Labour poised to spread reform to secondaries

1st October 1999 at 01:00
LABOUR'S education revolution is set to roll on into secondary schools as the party stakes its claim for a second term of office.

As the effects of the Government's reforms of primary education work through to secondaries, ministers plan to extend their focus to the post-11 phase. But they are unlikely to set the kind of tough national targets that primary teachers are expected to meet. Education Secretary David Blunkett says it is "improvements in standards that matter", not "targets for their own sake".

The Prime Minister set out his vision of 21st-century Britain at the Labour party conference in Bournemouth this week, in a speech short on detail but high on Labour values of social justice and equality of opportunity.

Education ministers are already working on a programme for the second term which Mr Blair so dearly wants - and Labour has never achieved. He told delegates: "In 10 years we will have transformed our schools."

The programme will include a sharper focus on the transition of pupils from primary to secondary, and a likely extension of the Excellence in Cities programme.

Ministers say they have been astonished by its success and the positive reaction from teachers in the 25 pilot areas.

Mr Blair also pledged that a Labour victory would mean continuing growth in money for education - though he backed Chancellor Gordon Brown's renowned prudence and his refusal to allow the immediate spending boom that some delegates and union leaders were calling for.

"If we carry on running this New Labour economic policy, I can tell you today we will continue to get more money into schools and hospitals in a way we can sustain year after year after year," Mr Blair said, to delegates' cheers.

He appealed directly to teachers to accept performance-related pay, saying:

"You do a great job in our schools," but adding: "We have to raise standards; we have to remove those who really cannot do the job."

Mr Blunkett told The TES: "We all need to take a deep breath for the next stage. We want to turn our development of policies for primary into radical change for secondaries."

This autumn will see the Government start to pull together some of its existing strands relating to key stage 3, including Excellence in the Cities and the school inclusion projects.

But the focus on primary standards will not be abandoned - "We haven't cracked it yet," Mr Blunkett said.

Mr Blair, in his speech, promised the country he would "set your potential free".

Labour was "half way through one parliament. Nothing like half way towards meeting all our goals," he said.

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