Brown finds £600m to help teachers

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The Independent Online

The Government will boost spending on education by offering a package worth about £600m to ease the workload of teachers and modernise the profession.

The Government will boost spending on education by offering a package worth about £600m to ease the workload of teachers and modernise the profession.

Estelle Morris, the Secretary of State for Education, has won the cash from the Chancellor, Gordon Brown, as part of his comprehensive spending review, to be announced on Monday. Reports yesterday suggested that it could be part of an extra £10bn spending on education over the next four years.

The £600m will be used to hire extra classroom assistants to free teachers from a series of administrative tasks – including invigilating exams, photocopying, and collecting dinner money from pupils – and allow them more time to teach.

Measures to offer cheaper homes for teachers in areas of the highest staffing shortages will also be unveiled to help solve recruitment problems. In turn, that will help staff to gain guaranteed time away from the classroom to spend on marking and preparation, and their own professional development.

The review is also expected to include about £500m to tackle truancy and discipline.

Tony Blair said the spending review would show that education was Labour's "number one priority". In a speech in Middlesbrough, he said improving secondary schools and expanding further and higher education would be key aims of the three-year spending plan. "Our aim is to replace the old 'one-size fits all' comprehensive with secondary schools that can develop the talents of each pupil," he said.

The Prime Minister dismissed criticism that the plan to ensure that half of 18 to 30 year-olds should enter higher education by 2010 was unrealistic. "I simply do not, and will not accept that this is an over-ambitious target," he said.

Mr Blair also pledged to end the "cosy élitism" that had bedevilled the education system. "We must banish forever the idea that the best education is only for a small, privileged minority, but for the majority there is no proper vocational route and second-rate opportunities," he said.

Teachers will, however, be expected to reach demanding targets to improve test and exam standards. For the first time, minimum targets will be announced for improvements in deprived inner city schools.

Ministers are optimistic they can reach agreement with the three TUC-affiliated teachers' unions, who had been threatening industrial action, on a package as a result of the deal.

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