pound;8bn bounty for buildings

29th September 2000 at 01:00
MORE targets, more nursery places and better buildings were being promised by Labour this week at its last party conference before the next election.

David Blunkett and Tony Blair pledged to transform secondary schools, give every three-year-old a free nursery place, provide more computers and improve run-down classrooms.

But there were no new targets on reducing class sizes, teachers' pay was not mentioned and ministers rejected calls to take more direct action to abolish grammar schools.

Mr Blunkett promised that more funding for buildings improvements would come direct to headteachers and governors - an average pound;50,000 for secondaries and pound;16,000 for primaries by 2003-4 - as part of a pound;7.8 billion programme of capital works.

Around 600 run-down schools can expect a complete makeover, while 7,000 are expected to benefit from the extra cash.

The nursery pledge for three-year-olds will be met by 2004.

There will also be pound;150 million more for improving the basic skills of adults - many of whom are unable to read a bus timetable or a newspaper headline, said Mr Blunkett (see FE Focus 33).

He also reassured local education authorities that a Labour government still saw a role for them - albeit largely as a schools support service. His comments were welcomed by the Society of Education Officers.

Mr Blunkett said: "We are starting to ensure people can believe that education is the great liberator, but it's also the great equaliser. We are able to level up to a fairer, prosperous and more equal society."

And in what some delegates took as a sideswipe at schools chief inspector Chris Woodhead, who has criticised A-level standards, he added: "What's good enough for the well-off, what's good enough for us and for my children, I want for every child in the country.

"No more nonsense that says if my child achieves well and achieves excellence then things are fine, (but) if your child achieves excellence, standard are dropping and exams are easier. Let's celebrate year-on-year achievement."

But the party's education policy document, presented for debate after his speech, came in for criticism from the Socialist Educational Alliance, which objected to the way Labour's policies for a second term were devised.

The group wanted to debate all the issues at conference rather than vote on a document produced by a national policy commission of just 11 members.

In the run-up to the election the Government is set to shift its emphasis from reducing exclusions to tackling truancy. Ministers believe that both parents and schools must do more to stop unauthorised absences.

The sites for three more city academies - which it is hoped will transform urban schooling - should be announced and a Bill on disability rights and special needs is likely to be the only education legislation in the Queen's Speech this autumn.

PROMISES, PROMISES

PRIME MINISTER TONY BLAIR PROMISED:

spending on education to increase as a proportion of national wealth.

1,000 specialist schools by 2004, up from 800, with

pound;28million increased funding.

an extra pound;710m to ensure one computer for every five secondary and for every eight primary pupils by 2004 - up from eight and 18 respectively in 1998.

Also mentioned were:

targets for 14-year-olds. By 2004, 80 per cent getting expected standard in maths, and 75 per cent in English and ICT, and 80 per cent in science.

target for five A* to C grades at GCSE is 54 per cent in 2004, up from 50 per cent in 2002.

EDUCATION SECRETARY DAVID BLUNKETT

PROMISED:

free nursery places for all three-year-olds by 2004.

a pound;7.8bn investment in school buildings over three years, including new direct grants to schools. These will average pound;50,000 for secondaries and pound;16,000 for primaries by 2003-4.

an extra pound;150m for adult basic skills and new national strategy out before Christmas.


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