Schools will have to report to parents on whether they are meeting national targets and there will be more league tables, Mr Major said as the pre- election battle over education intensified.
Both the main parties claimed that the other was stealing their ideas on how to raise standards. Labour said John Major had done a U-turn on target-setting which it had backed for several years. The Prime Minister accused Labour of playing "catch-up" politics.
Ministerial announcements came tumbling out of Whitehall and Westminster. A press briefing by Gillian Shephard, the Secretary of State for Education, on the strengthening of A-levels, was overshadowed by another at Conservative Central Office where the Prime Minister, backed by Mrs Shephard, disclosed the new league table plans.
Teacher unions described the decision to appraise teachers partly by their pupils' test and exam results as "the policy of the madhouse". Heads said more league tables would be strenuously opposed by the entire profession.
New school reports will have to include schools' own targets, the local authority's target, the national target, the national average target and the achievement of similar types of schools, Mr Major said. Hit squads will be sent into failing local authorities.
Performance tables for National Curriculum tests will be published for pupils aged seven and 14 as well as for GCSE and A-level pupils as at present. The first tables for 11-year-olds will be published next month. Mr Major said: "The next stage of our parent power reforms will ensure once and for all that parents are the masters of their children's schooling."
David Blunkett, opposition spokesman Education, said: "Two weeks ago, Labour proposed a new national literacy target as an addition to the Education Bill. Education Minister Eric Forth refused to accept the clause. Now we have another U-turn from ministers as they accept yet another Labour proposal to raise standards." Only a week ago, he added, Labour had announced its plans to improve poor local education authorities.
On league tables, he explained that Labour would continue to publish national tables of GCSE and A-level results but would require results for 7- and 14-year-olds to be published only by local authorities. The party would decide later what to do about tables for 11-year-olds.
Mr Major ridiculed the idea that Labour was the party of higher standards. "We should judge Labour by their actions, not their words, by their opposition to our reforms and by the fact that the 20 worst performing education authorities have all been under long-term Labour control," he said.
Mrs Shephard promised tough action against under-performing teachers. She said: "We shall now be introducing a rigorous appraisal scheme for teachers, judging them on their pupils' performance. Where necessary we will be removing teachers who cannot reach the required national standards."
New criteria to judge teachers were being drawn up including classroom control, organisation, lesson planning, ability to convey enthusiasm for the subject and pupils' performance.
Nigel de Gruchy, general secretary of the National Association of Schoolmasters/Union of Women Teachers, said: "On the face of it, years of development of teacher appraisal are to be swept aside in the interests of a few seconds of prime- ministerial soundbite in the Conservative Party's increasingly desperate attempts to catch the big idea on education."
But David Hart, general secretary of the National Association of Head Teachers, said: "Of course teachers must be appraised on their performance, including the results of their pupils. What is wholly unacceptable is for the Secretary of State to imply that there is some easy route for removing incompetent teachers."Reuse content