Call for parents to pay `top-up' fees

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The Independent Online
NEW CALLS for schools to be able to charge "top-up" fees or for the introduction of cash vouchers for schooling created a political row yesterday, writes Stephen Castle.

Roderick Nye, the new director of the Social Market Foundation think- tank, made the suggestion in an article in the organisation's winter update. Earlier this month Mr Nye succeeded his former boss, Danny Finkelstein, who left the free-market think-tank to head Conservative Central Office's research department.

In the article Mr Nye argued for more private contributions to the public sector, adding: "This might mean allowing state schools to charge discretionary fees on top of the per pupil funding they receive from the state.

"That would enable parents, who could afford it, to contribute directly to their child's education, an option currently available only to those who opt out of the state system entirely".

Labour's education and employment spokesman, David Blunkett, said: "Despite the total confusion which now surrounds the policy of the Conservative Government on education, it is clear that those planning future policy have a very clear agenda to move the Government even further to the right."

But a spokesman for the Conservative party said: "The Social Market Foundation is a wholly independent organisation not connected with the Conservative party. The views it expresses are those of its authors and not the Conservative party."