So who's been listening?

15th April 2005 at 01:00
The TES Readers' Manifesto, published last week, is an invaluable document summarising all the current concerns of teachers. I was pleased to see that many of the issues raised in it are directly addressed in our platform of education policies.

Smaller class sizes create a better learning environment and help foster better behaviour in the classroom - which is why we will reduce key stage 1 class sizes to an average of 20 and KS2 class sizes to an average of 25.

Our pound;9.4 billion investment in primary schools will bring modern facilities and adequate space to accommodate these extra classes.

Smaller class sizes give teachers more time with individual pupils, supporting one-on-one learning. Children who are engaged by learning from the start are more likely to be confident and successful students, and less likely to play up in class or truant. Pupils in smaller classes do better in maths and literacy in their first year of school, and the ones who struggle most benefit most. Smaller classes also reduce paperwork, giving teachers time to do the work they are trained for and enjoy - interaction with pupils.

How many times can students be tested, schools and colleges inspected, league tables produced before it has a negative effect on learning? We believe that point has passed. We will replace the often restrictive national curriculum with a minimum curriculum entitlement so teachers can design courses to meet the needs and interests of their pupils. As well as scrapping league tables, Sats at seven and 11 and reducing the number of externally-tested exams, we will abolish the Office for Standards in Education and implement a programme of self-assessment in schools, overseen by the Audit Commission.

We want all pupils to be taught by specialists, and we will guarantee that every secondary teacher expected to teach lessons in English, maths, science, ICT and modern languages has access to appropriate training and professional development.

We remain committed to the principles of the Tomlinson report. We do not want to scrap the content of A- levels and GCSEs but to incorporate those programmes of study and build on them in the structure of a new diploma. We are adamant that all young people will benefit from high-quality vocational programmes - not just the disaffected and less able. All young people deserve the chance to select from a broader range of programmes so that they leave schools and colleges with the best combination of knowledge and skills to succeed in the 21st century.

Sixth-formers and college students studying for the same exams must have equal funding. We will eliminate the disparity in funding between colleges and schools offering the same courses.

Phil Willis is the Liberal Democrats' education spokesmanSend us your views Email: letters@tes.co.uk

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