29/06/2004

Tories pledge education spending rise to boost 'choice'

The Tories have set their sights on creating the equivalent of up to 260 new secondary schools, and ensuring that 100,000 more parents can send their children to first choice schools, if voted into government at the next general election.

The reforms would be backed by more money for education - amounting to £15 billion a year by 2009 over and above the spending sums inherited from Labour, the party claimed.

A Tory government would budget for creating hundreds of thousands of new classroom places – which could mean 260 new schools, or an expansion of existing, successful schools.

Funding would also be made available so the education system could be opened up to organisations such as independent companies and charities to provide schooling.

The Tory education plan also pledges to: allow popular and successful schools to expand; grant head teachers greater control over their institutions; slash bureaucracy; and abolish appeals panels.

Unveiling the package at party headquarters today, Conservative leader Michael Howard and Shadow Education Secretary Tim Collins said that the move was part of a major programme designed to lift standards in the country's front line public services.

Mr Howard said: "Conservatives believe that parents and teachers know what is best for children. Parents deserve to be given the right to choose the school that is best for their children. And teachers deserve to be given the freedom to teach those children."

By slashing back the "undergrowth of targets and brambles of bureaucracy", teachers would be free to teach and restore discipline to classrooms, he said.

"Our ambition is to give every child the start in life that today only money can buy. Under Labour, children will be left to fail. Our Right to Choose will raise standards for all," the Tory leader added.

(gmcg)

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