15th February 2008 at 00:00
Schools have been ignored so much in the US presidential election that Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft, has helped set up a pound;30 million lobbying campaign to get candidates talking about education.

But the differences between the candidates' views are significant.

John McCain, likely Republican candidate, does not even list education among the main issues on his website, and devotes just 484 vague words to his school policies.

In effect, he proposes a voucher system - but does not spell it out - that would let parents send their children to the school of their choice. He wants tougher accountability and more competition between schools, which he says have avoided "genuine responsibility".

Schools may be happier with Democrat frontrunner Hillary Clinton's 727 words on education. She claims she helped to double pay for teachers in Arkansas. Her policies include ending No Child Left Behind, the accountability system that is unpopular with teachers, and she wants to boost funding for pupils with special needs.

More impressive are the 1,300 words of her competitor, Barak Obama (above). Like Clinton, he wants to double funding on after-school programmes, but also plans to find new ways to boost teachers' pay, "developed with teachers, not imposed on them", plus more mentoring and shared planning time.

Mr Obama wants to keep the No Left Child Behind programme, but change it so that teachers would not have to teach to the test, and so that it "supports schools that need improvement rather than punishing them".

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