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Nick Clegg announces plans to fix ‘class-based education system’

February 5, 2009 10:47 AM
Originally published by UK Liberal Democrats

Nick Clegg announced radical new education policies to fix inequalities in Britain's 'class-based education system.'

The plans would narrow the gap between the state and private sector, raising funding for the most disadvantaged pupils to private school levels and delivering extra money to cut infant class sizes to 15.

The proposals will reverse decades of standardisation and centralisation. In its place, more freedoms would be granted to schools, and power would be devolved from national government to local authorities and to an independent Educational Standards Authority.

The measures will be debated at the Liberal Democrats' spring conference alongside policies for childcare and higher education, placing children and social mobility at the heart of the party's message to voters.

Key policies in the paper, Equity and Excellence: Policies for 5-19 Education in English Schools and Colleges, include: Providing funding to cut class sizes for children aged 5-7 to private school levels of around 15 children per class Introducing a Pupil Premium to bring the funding levels for one million disadvantaged pupils immediately up to private school levels Using the Pupil Premium to extend the length of the school day, fund more one-to-one reading and maths teaching, attract the best teachers to the most challenging schools, and to cut class sizes Restoring confidence in standards by establishing an independent Educational Standards Authority Passing an Education Freedom Act to reduce the power of central government, replacing the 600 page National Curriculum with a 20 page Minimum Curriculum Guarantee, and extending the powers to innovate possessed by Academies to all schools Introducing a new model of Sponsor Managed Schools, to allow local authorities to commission educational charities and private providers to run maintained schools, subject to proper accountability, with a level playing field for all state schools on issues such as funding and admissions

Nick Clegg said:

"While fighting the recession is currently the top priority, Britain cannot afford to get stuck in thinking only of our present - we must plan for the future. This means the best education for the youngest children to deliver a truly free society.

"The enormous gap that still exists in Britain today between the performance of our most disadvantaged children and those from richer families is an outrage. The Liberal Democrats believe that every child should be entitled to the best possible education no matter what their background is.

"Our Pupil Premium will help to get extra money to the schools with the children who really need extra support. This will fund longer school days, smaller class sizes, reading and maths recovery, and attracting the best teachers - all policies which we know can make a real difference.

"I am determined to close the gap between the private and state schools. Parents should not have to pay in order to get their children into schools and colleges with small class sizes, a rich and broad curriculum, good discipline, strong teaching and real opportunities in sports and the arts.

"Education is fundamental to a free society, to social mobility and to delivering opportunities for every child and it will be one of our biggest priorities in the next General Election.

"The financial crisis means that under the Tories and Labour education is likely to be squeezed after 2011 - with the budget shrinking again as a share of GDP, as it did under the Tories. Only the Liberal Democrats will grow education budgets, to build on rather than reverse the investment of the last decade."