Blair pledges multi-billion school fund pledge by

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The Independent Online
TONY BLAIR yesterday promised headteachers a multi-billion pound investment in schools after the next election.

The Prime Minister won a standing ovation at a conference in Cardiff after announcing that the Government's pounds 19bn programme of spending on education would be repeated after 2002. But he warned that the public would only support extra investment that led directly to a rise in standards.

Speaking at the National Association of Head Teachers conference, Mr Blair said: "After this three-year programme has run its course we want another three-year programme which also manages to get extra investment into our schools.

"Over the next three years education will get the biggest spending increase in history. I am determined that as a government we will continue to make the hard choices necessary to give education the priority it deserves.

"But the new investment must at every stage be for modernisation and higher standards."

Mr Blair made it plain there would be no retreat on efforts to introduce performance-related pay into schools but said pounds 1bn was available to reward effective teachers and heads.

He said: "We simply cannot justify such an exceptional investment unless it is tied to a significant return. It must be used to lever up standards and performance. There really would not be public consent for it otherwise."

Speaking 24 hours after headteachers claimed half of primary schools would not meet government targets, Mr Blair said his "objective is nothing less than the abolition of poor reading, writing and maths skills among the generation of tomorrow.

"I know that these strategies put pressure on teachers and headteachers. They put pressure on all of us; not least David Blunkett [Education Secretary] and myself with our commitment to ambitious national targets."

Mr Blair told headteachers they were at the centre of his "crusade" to raise school standards.

David Hart, NAHT general secretary, said: "The Prime Minister's commitment to spend an additional substantial sum of money after the pounds 19bn is a signal to heads that the government's programme will not stop at the next election."

He said headteachers were prepared to make performance pay work, arguing: "Anybody who thinks they can turn their backs on pounds 1bn over two years is living in cloud cuckoo land."

In a wide-ranging speech, Mr Blair criticised the 11-plus. He said: "People don't want to go back to a system which divides people into successes or failures at the age of 11.

"I know there are people who still support that system, but I meet people for whom rejection at 11 is the most devastating thing that ever happened to them and follows them to this day."