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What the big beasts said;Blackpool '99

MICHAEL PORTILLO: "I went to a state primary school, where the teachers were excellent. We were generally 36 in a class, and from the age of seven we sat at desks in rows. Even in my earliest years, we were given tests frequently, and the top twelve in the class were told their class rankings. It now seems unbelievably politically incorrect ... We were in a hut that got cold in winter, and the number one pupil had the privilege of sitting closest to the stove."

STEPHEN DORRELL : "Each new control in education is said to be necessary to avoid waste and improve standards, but the effect is to undermine the responsibilities of head, parent, governor and councillor . By second - guessing all their key decisions the nanny state has crowded out personal and local responsibility and nationalised a key element of social policy."

CHRIS WOODHEAD: "You have to ask yourself, 'of all the different things that LEAs do, which of those things have a genuine, local, democratic significance?' Obviously much does not . Support services for schools could be done by anybody within a market. We need to continue the drive that began in 1988 with local management of schools to devolve responsibility so schools can manage their own destiny."

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