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A winning policy for Michael Howard

A Conservative pledge to halt special school closures has emerged as the most popular education policy with teachers, even though few back the party.

An online TES survey found more teachers backed the Tory plan than wanted primary class sizes cut, a key Liberal Democrat policy.

With less than a week to polling day, the main parties have again been highlighting their schools policies.

When teachers were asked to rate a series of individual policies, without indicating the party they had come from, the Liberal Democrats' and Conservatives' proved most popular. Of 120 teachers who took part, 82 per cent said they supported a moratorium on special school closures.

The next three most popular policies were all Liberal Democrat: cut primary class sizes (79 per cent); scrap tests at seven and 11 (73 per cent); and scrap league tables (69 per cent).

Tory plans for statutory anonymity for teachers accused of abuse were backed by 66 per cent. More than three-fifths also supported its policy of abolishing exclusion appeals panels. Fewer than a third approved of Education Secretary Ruth Kelly's plan for more state boarding schools for disadvantaged children.

The least popular policy was Labour's plan to let inspectors decide if schools should be closed, supported by just 8 per cent. This idea got even less support than a planned quota limiting the proportion of students getting A and A* at A-level, a Tory policy backed by 10 per cent.

Two senior Conservatives have signed a cross-party campaign to end the scandal of poor support for pupils with special educational needs by local councils. Tim Collins, education spokesman, and Iain Duncan Smith, the former Tory leader, have joined The Independent Panel for Special Education Advice in calling on local authorities to meet their legal duties to assess and support SEN pupils.


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