The verdict on Labour's record: Policy pundits

1st June 2001 at 01:00
Dr Nicholas Tate, head of Winchester College and former chief of the Qualifications and Curriculum Authority: "The big push on primary education means far more children could be leaving primary school able to read, write and do elementary maths. That's a massive achievement.

On the negative side, unwittingly we have ended up with too many exams: modular exams, A-levels, key skills. I accept a full share of responsibility for that."

Verdict on Labour's record: 710

Matthew Taylor, director of left-leaning think-tank the Institute for Public Policy Research: "Some clear success stories: for example, primary education and raising standards. Less success in secondaries, although some secondary initiatives, such as Excellence in Cities, are beginning to pay dividends.

I think the Government needs to ask itself serious questions about the sustainability of the expansion of higher education, and the quality of some of the courses on offer." 810

Professor Alan Smithers, director of the centre for education and employment research, Liverpool University: "The specialist schools policy is a recipe for chaos, and the Government took too long to wake up to teacher recruitment problems.

Its attitude to university students seems to be 'pile 'em high, teach 'em cheap'. Given its poor record, it puzzles me that Labour's performance in education is often counted as a success. It must have a lot to do with David Blunkett, who is a superb politician." 510

JamesTooley, education professor, Newcastle University: "The Labour government has not proved ideologically inflexible, as I feared. It's encouraging that it has no conceptual opposition to privatisation. But that's the only good thing about its record. There have been too many directives from Whitehall, and increased state involvement in the curriculum. Privatisation has still left failing authorities with too much control over services they ran badly in the past." 410

Margaret Tulloch, spokesperson for the Campaign for State Education: "Good marks for: improved funding, especially with regard to buildings; the focus on early years; cutting infant class sizes; information technology support; and teachers' professional development. Poor marks for: refusing to scrap grammars; the divisive specialist schools plan; failure to take a more pro-active line in ending unfair admissions practices and the Private Finance Initiative, which is a waste of public money." 610

Ruth Lea, head of policy at the Institute of Directors: "Education has been one of the Government's success stories. Though a lot of Mr Blunkett's ideas, for example in literacy and numeracy, are continuing what the Tories were trying to do. That said, the fact that fewer now leave primary school without basic reading, writing and arithmetic skills is a great achievement. But education action zones were a bit of a flop, and there has been an awful lot of extra bureaurcracy." 7.510

Warwick Mansell

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